Welcome to the Texas Prison Museum
The Texas Prison Museum offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the state's imprisoned citizens. The museum features numerous exhibits detailing the history of the Texas prison system, featuring a look inside the operations behind the fences and walls.
Adults - $7;
Seniors 60+/Active or Retired Military/First
SHSU Students - $5;
Ages 6/17 - $4;
5 years and under - No Charge.
491 Hwy 75 N
Huntsville, TX 77320
The Texas Prison Museum shall collect, preserve and showcase the history and the culture of the Texas prison system and educate the people of Texas and of the world.
If you've got questions, would like to place a gift shop order, or would simply like to know more about the Texas Prison System, we'd love to hear from you!
From the time of Independence from Mexico until 1924, hanging was the lawful method of execution in Texas. Hangings took place in the county where the condemned person was convicted.
In 1924 the State of Texas took control of all executions and prescribed electrocution as the method. One of the most chilling exhibits at the Texas Prison Museum is "Old Sparky," the decommissioned electric chair in which 361 prisoners were executed between 1924 and 1964. This legendary device, made by prison workers, was in storage at the Walls Unit Death House before being donated to the museum, and is our most controversial exhibit.
Various types of hardware have been used to contain inmates. This exhibit shows the different types of equipment used over the years, including the old ball and chain, pad locks, and modern handcuffs.
Ball & Chain
Bonnie & Clyde
HOURS OF OPERATION
Monday - Saturday
10 am - 5 pm
12 pm - 5 pm
In observance of holidays, the Texas Prison Museum is closed on Easter,
Thanksgiving, two days during Christmas, and New Year's Day.
This Week In Texas Prison History
1878 Huntsville Unit (Walls) - Kiowa Chief Satanta jumped from the second floor of the hospital killing himself. Satanta and another Kiowa chief, Big Tree, had been given the death penalty in 1871 for several counts of murdering settlers. However, Governor Edmond Davis had commuted the sentences to life. The two were paroled about two years later. In 1874 Satanta was returned to Huntsville for violating his parole for his involvement in wars with the white settlers. Satanta was in the hospital due to having cut his wrists. In 1963 the Kiowa tribe was allowed to remove his remains from the prison's Peckerwood Hill Cemetery and relocated his remains to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
1930 Huntsville Unit (Walls) - Joyce Shepard, a killer blinded by his own hand, was put to death in the State prison electric chair early today. He was accused of murdering Sheriff Bob Smith of Fisher County and his deputy, Jake Owens and was convicted of the Owens slaying. He was pronounced dead at 12:16 a.m. Shepard gouged out both eyes with a nail loosed from a ventilator in his cell, fashioning a handle with a bit of string. That was two weeks ago and was reveled only last night when newspaper men were permitted to enter death row for a final interview. Prison Manager Lee Simmons said the act was kept secret because he did not deem such occurrence proper for publication. It could not be learned whether it had been brought to Governor Moody's attention as possibly bearing on Shepard's sanity or insanity. The slayer might have died in his cell had not officials discovered a curved weapon, made from the sharpened bone of a T-bone steak, hidden in his bedding. Shepard, who made an affidavit just before the death march began, admitted the killing, absolving his
his alleged accomplice, Lloyd Conatser, of blame and saying he had been feigning insanity, was trembling as he entered the death cell and had to be helped into the chair. As he walked into the chamber he shouted back, "Good-bye to all the boys. I had good will toward them all." Shepard, alias Bill Smith, in his sworn affidavit said he realized he was going to die and wanted to tell the whole truth. He shot Smith twice and Owens twice, he said, and Canatser, now serving a 99-year prison term, had nothing to do with it. Shepard had had two sanity hearing, the first of which found him insane. After the verdict he was committed to the State Hospital at Rusk, but some time afterward the superintendent filed an affidavit that he then believed Shepard sane. The second hearing at Anson, resulted in a verdict that he was sane and the prisoner was brought back to death row again. If the eye offended thee, plunk it out. It is better for a part of the body to die than be cast into hell." With this Biblical quotation, Shepard explained why he had rendered himself sightless by plunging a sharpened nail into his eyes. He explained that he worked a small nail loose from a ventilator in his cell, sharpened it on the concrete floor, then gouged out his eyes, one at a time. A week ago, Shepard admitted, he told fellow inmates of "death row" that he did not believe "this crazy business will work this time." "I wanted to prove that I would not try to escape," Shepard said in detailing how he had destroyed his own sight. He was eating ice cream when his interviewers were led into his cell. "Pardon me," he said, "I want to finish this. You know I ca't wrap it up and take it with me." He had requested the delicacy a short time earlier. His wish was granted immediately by prison officials. As the end neared for Shepard, this man whose weird cries had inspired a famous drama of prison life, sought solace in religion. He asked that the last rites of the Catholic Church be administered by Father Finnegan. He shouted defiance at fellow inmates of death row. When some of the doomed men called to him, "are you ready to go over?" he replied: "Boys, I'm not going to have a tear in my eye when I go over the road." (AP, San Antonio Express, October 17, 1930)