Texas Department of Criminal Justice:
An Inventory of Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Administrative Correspondence and Subject Files at the Texas State Archives, 1951, 1964, 1983-2001, bulk 1996-2001
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) manages offenders in state prisons, state jails and contracted private correctional facilities. The agency also provides funding and certain oversight of community supervision and is responsible for the supervision of offenders released from prison on parole or mandatory supervision. On March 13, 1848, the 2nd Texas Legislature passed the act that began the Texas penitentiary. A governing body was instituted with a three-member Board of Directors, appointed by the governor with the approval of the senate. The board was made responsible to locate a site for construction of the penitentiary, create and distribute a set of rules and bylaws for the administration of the penitentiary, oversee the treatment of convicts, prepare an annual inventory of property, and make an annual report to the governor. The commissioners selected Huntsville, Walker County, for the site, and construction began on August 5, 1848. On October 1, 1849, the first prisoner, a convicted horse thief from Fayette County, entered the partially completed Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, also known as the Huntsville Penitentiary. The number of convicts increased between the end of the Civil War and the fall of 1866. Convicts were put to work in various shops and factories housed within the institution. On November 12, 1866, the legislature enacted a measure that established a five-member Board of Public Labor to administer the penitentiary. This board was comprised of the governor, secretary of state, comptroller, attorney general, and state treasurer. In 1871, the legislature directed that the penitentiary be leased to private individuals (Chapter 21, 12th Legislature, 1st Called Session). These individuals, known as lessees, paid the state for the convict labor and use of facilities. In turn, they managed the system, including the clothing and feeding of the convicts, and the paying of the guards. It was during this period that the outside camp system was firmly established as part of the prison system. In addition to the use of convicts in and around the prison, the convicts were hired out to large labor employers, mainly plantation owners and railroad companies. A second prison facility, Rusk Penitentiary, was built between 1877 and 1882. It began receiving convicts in January of 1883.
Pursuant to the 1879 law, a superintendent, appointed by the governor with senate approval, was to serve as chief executive, assisted by an officer responsible for inspecting prisoner labor camps operated by private employers. In 1881, the legislature reorganized the prison system. It abolished the Board of Directors and created in its place a Penitentiary Board. This board consisted of the governor, the state treasurer, and the prison superintendent (Chapter 49, 17th Legislature, Regular Session). In April 1883, the administrative system was yet again reorganized. The board now comprised of the governor and two commissioners appointed by the governor (Chapter 114, 18th Legislature, Regular Session). In 1885, after yet another change, the board consisted of three commissioners appointed by the governor (House Bill 562, 19th Legislature, Regular Session). This board was succeeded by the Board of Prison Commissioners in 1910, which was composed of three commissioners appointed by the governor (Senate Bill 10, 31st Legislature, 4th Called Session). The legislation that created the new board also directed the prison system to begin operating again on state account, i.e., lessees no longer managed the prison system, effective in January 1911. Convicts, or inmates, were housed and worked in one of the two prisons or on one of several state prison farms. The shop industries slowed down while the prison farms expanded. This arrangement made it more difficult to provide education and other reform measures. Such measures were generally practiced at Huntsville, with some teaching extended to a couple of prison farms by the early 1900s.
In 1927, the Texas Prison Board replaced the Board of Prison Commissioners as the governing body for the Texas Prison System, increasing in size to nine members (House Bill 59, 40th Legislature, Regular Session). The members of the board were appointed by the governor, with senate approval, to six-year overlapping terms. The board formulated the policies and the manager carried them out. During its existence, 1927-1957, the board made changes in the system including more emphasis on prison reform, teaching, recreation - including the establishment of the Texas Prison Rodeo - and a new method of classifying inmates. In 1957, the Texas Prison System became the Department of Corrections (Senate Bill 42, 55th Legislature, Regular Session). This department was governed by the Board of Corrections, composed of nine members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate to six-year overlapping terms.
During the 1960s, the Department of Corrections designated the Huntsville Penitentiary and prison farms as "units" and opened several new facilities. In 1963, the department opened the 11,672-acre Ellis Unit north of Huntsville. The 22,640-acre Coffield Unit near Tennessee Colony in Anderson County, began operations in 1965. In 1969, Windham School, an institution for inmates in all units, became a regular school district eligible to receive state foundation funds. By 1972, the prison system owned more than 100,000 acres.
In 1989, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the Board of Criminal Justice were created (House Bill 2335, 71st Legislature, Regular Session). The board is composed of nine members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate to six-year overlapping terms. The governor may not appoint more than two members who reside in an area encompassed by the same administrative judicial region. This new agency absorbed the functions of three existing agencies: the Department of Corrections, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Texas Adult Probation Commission. In 1989, the Department of Corrections, which was responsible for the operation of the prison system, became the Institutional Division of the Department of Criminal Justice. The division manages the housing of inmates within the prison system. Offenders are housed in 73 facilities - 59 prison units and 14 transfer facilities, that include five women's units, four medical units, three psychiatric units, a diagnostic unit for initial processing, two boot camps, and two work camps. TDCJ also contracts with seven privately operated facilities to house inmates. As of July 1998, approximately 124,000 offenders were housed in TDCJ units; 6,168 in private facilities.
The other divisions of the Department of Criminal Justice include the Parole Division (including the Board of Pardons and Paroles), the Community Justice Assistance Division (former Adult Probation Commission), the State Jail Division (created in 1993), the Executive Division, Internal Affairs, Programs and Services, Victims Services, Office of the General Counsel, Financial Services, Health Services, Internal Audit, and State Counsel for Offenders. Direct management of the prison system is through an executive director, with each division headed by a director and each individual prison unit managed by a warden.
(Sources include: Paul M. Lucko, "Prison System," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jjp03), accessed February 21, 2014, published by the Texas State Historical Association; the TDCJ website (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/index.html), accessed February 21, 2014; and the agency's records.)
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) manages offenders in state prisons, state jails and contracted private correctional facilities. The agency also provides funding and certain oversight of community supervision and is responsible for the supervision of offenders released from prison on parole or mandatory supervision. These records consist of administrative correspondence and subject files from the office of the Executive Director of TDCJ, and its predecessor, the office of Director of the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC). Dates covered are 1951, 1964, 1983-2001. The bulk of the correspondence and other administrative files are dated between 1996 and 2001. The records primarily comprise administrative correspondence, including legal correspondence pertaining to various litigation cases and include settlement details; correspondence with legislators, judges and other politicians regarding prison system issues as well as individual inmates and their criminal, medical and psychological histories; correspondence with inmates, correspondence with family and friends of inmates; and correspondence with policy and decision makers at various Texas counties regarding Texas prison units and potential construction sites. There is also a limited amount of correspondence with citizens concerned with how their tax dollars are being spent, prison escapes, hostage situations, and requests for patches for prison patch collections. Other documents include agendas for and minutes from organizational and committee meetings, status and performance reports, financial statements, operating budgets and budget forecasts, operating policies, construction plans for future prison units, internal organizational policies and administrative directives, committee membership lists, applications for employment, biographical information and resumes for applicants, memorandums of understanding between TDCJ and other agencies, bid proposals by various Texas counties and construction firms, originals and photocopies of newspapers and news clippings, photocopies of pages from the Texas Register (newsletter) and The Echo, handwritten notes, statement of gifts and donations, copies of anonymous letters (including a threat to Raymond Procunier), affidavits and transcripts of testimonies and hearings in court, certificates of resolution, fax cover pages, informational brochures and fliers, transcripts of speeches and introductions, printouts of electronic slide presentations, press releases, scattered photographs (including black-and-white photocopies of photographs) and architectural drawings, details of legal settlements, disciplinary hearings and employee narrative reports, and administrative information for internal financial audits.
Photographs include pictures taken at the first strategic planning conference of the TDCJ in 1993, pictures of existing prison units as well as of potential sites for construction of additional units, photocopies of pictures of TDC historical buildings and sites, and a photocopy of a picture of an inmate's profile and head shot. Other images include copies of architectural layouts of prison units, maps of Texas, a soil map, and graphs and charts contained within reports.
TDC directors represented in these records include George Beto (1962-1972), Raymond K. Procunier (1984-1985), Orson L. McCotter (1985-1986), and James A. Lynaugh (1987-1989). TDCJ executive directors reflected in these records include James A. Lynaugh (1989-1993), James E. Riley (interim executive director, 1993-1994), Andy Collins (1994-1995), and Wayne Scott (1996-2001).
George Beto followed Oscar Byron Ellis as TDC director in January 1962. Beto, an ordained Lutheran minister, was a former member of the Texas Board of Corrections, and a former president of Concordia College in Austin. He was called "Walking George" by inmates because he maintained close contact with prisoners and their families. His records (1964) include administrative correspondence, particularly regarding the periodical subscriptions for TDC libraries, and efforts to establish and publish a monthly, national magazine edited and written by inmates, as well as original copies of newspapers.
Raymond K. "Pro" Procunier followed W.J. "Jim" Estelle as TDC director, and served from May 1984 to June 1985. A former navy pilot, Procunier was the former director of the California prison system as well as prison systems in Utah and Virginia, and was deputy secretary of operations for the New Mexico prison system. He assumed the position of director at a time when the Texas prison system was faced with a series of federal court orders and widespread charges of violence, brutality, financial mismanagement and corruption. He is credited with introducing reforms to the Texas prison system. His records (1964, 1984-1985) include copies of original newspapers, biographical information for Orson K. "Lane" McCotter, management reports, inmate letters and administrative correspondence.
Orson K. "Lane" McCotter followed Raymond Procunier as TDC director, serving from 1985 to December 1986. His records (1983, 1985-1986) include administrative correspondence, including the topics of bed capacity adjustments in TDC prison units, TDC's official Notice of Intent to select a site for a new facility, site proposals from Texas counties, and statistics for the projected population and percentage of occupancy for TDC.
James A. "Jim" Lynaugh was appointed TDC director in May 1987. He had been serving as acting director before his formal appointment. Prior to this, he was an accountant at the State Comptroller's office. When TDCJ was created in 1989 by order of the 77th Legislature, Lynaugh was appointed as its first executive director. He served in this position until October 1, 1993, when he resigned to assume the position of overseer of a health maintenance program for prisoners administered by the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas Tech Health Center. His records include documents from his terms as TDC director (1987-1989) and as executive director of TDCJ (1989-1993). As TDC director, these primarily include administrative correspondence, policy material, minutes, memorandums of understanding, updates, and committee reports for board meetings (1987-1988, 1990). Records as TDCJ executive director include documentation of the site selection process for the State Jail Felony Facilities, implementation of the Senate Bill 532, projected state jail felony population for 1995 and 1996, administrative correspondence, policy material, minutes, memorandums of understanding, updates and committee reports for board meetings (1951, 1987-1991, 1993).
James E. "Jim" Riley served as interim executive director of TDCJ between 1993 and 1994. Prior to this, he was Assistant Director for Health Services (1993). His records (1993-1994) include administrative documents and correspondence, correspondence directed to James Lynaugh, health services strategic plan, a report on strategy options for reducing county jail backlogs, an original copy of The Echo – Texas Prison News, photocopies of news clippings pertaining to James Lynaugh's continued occupancy of free TDCJ-owned housing even after his resignation (1993) and a press release by Mr. Riley in response, photographs from the first strategic planning conference, a report titled "Agency Strategic Plan, Stage I and II" for the 1992-1998 period, documentation relating to the planning, organization and execution of conferences (1993-1994), and meeting agendas, minutes and printouts of electronic slide presentations.
James A. "Andy" Collins served as TDCJ director from 1994 to 1995. Failure to follow established bidding procedures for an illegal purchase ($33.7 million) of VitaPro, a soy-based meat additive, led to his resignation, as well as the resignations of several high-ranking administrative staff in 1995. In the past, Mr. Collins had served as TDC deputy director for operations in 1987, and director of TDCJ Institutional Division, 1991-1993. His records (1995) include executive directives, TDCJ strategic issues, and TDCJ policy documents.
Wayne Scott became executive director of TDCJ in 1996 and served in this position until 2001. Prior to this, he was the director of TDCJ's Institutional Division. His records (1996-2001) include administrative correspondence, interoffice communication, memos, correspondence with legislators, judges and other politicians regarding prison system issues, correspondence with family and friends of inmates, and other correspondence spanning new prison chapel construction projects, Texas Special Olympics "Torch of Hope Run," TDCJ affirmative action plan, Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), employment practices, fundraising efforts, and recommendation letters for staff and other colleagues.
(Sources include: Texas Almanac (various editions); The Kansas City Star, October 21, 1984; The Houston Chronicle, October 31, 1993; the TDCJ website (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/index.html), accessed February 21, 2014; and the agency's records.)
Restrictions on Access
Because of the possibility that portions of these records fall under Public Information Act exceptions including, but not limited to: social security numbers (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.101); information about inmates created by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.134 (information confidential by law, Texas Government Code, Section 508.313)); attorney-client privilege, agency memoranda or attorney work product (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.107 or 111); home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and personal family information of employees of the Dept. of Criminal Justice/Dept. of Corrections employees (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.117); driver's license numbers (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.130); medical information (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.101 (information confidential by law, Texas Occupations Code, Section 159.002(b)); psychological or psychiatric reports and evaluations (V.T.C.A., Health and Safety Code, Mental Health records, 611.002); and account numbers (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.136); an archivist must review these records before they can be accessed for research. The records may be requested for research under the provisions of the Public Information Act (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Chapter 552). The researcher may request an interview with an archivist or submit a request by mail (Texas State Library and Archives Commission, P. O. Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711), fax (512-463-5436), email (Dir_Lib@tsl.texas.gov), or see our web page (http://www.tsl.texas.gov/agency/customer/pia.html). Include enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the archivist to accurately identify and locate the information. If our review reveals information that may be excepted by the Public Information Act, we are obligated to seek an open records decision from the Attorney General on whether the records can be released. The Public Information Act allows the Archives ten working days after receiving a request to make this determination. The Attorney General has 45 working days to render a decision. Alternately, the Archives can inform you of the nature of the potentially excepted information and if you agree, that information can be redacted or removed and you can access the remainder of the records.
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(Identify the item and cite the series), Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director administrative correspondence and subject files. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2010/039
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on November 5, 2009.
Processed by Aditi Worcester, April 2012
Detailed Description of the Records