Thursday, January 05, 2012

'Texas prison burials are a gentle touch in a punitive system'

There's an interesting if macabre story from the NY Times today with the same title as this post on a mostly hidden aspect of the system: the solemn, longstanding administration of a pauper's field for Texas inmates in Hunstsville dating from the earliest days of statehood in the 1840s (the Texas Republic had before then repeatedly rejected a central prison, which was pushed through in the first Texas state Legislature). See especially the accompanying slide show.

No last meal, anymore, but a final place to rest one's bones.
 Inmates who die in TDCJ custody are buried there if no one claims the body, though "many family members fail to claim the bodies because they cannot afford burial expenses and want the prison agency to pay the costs instead. The same relatives who declined to claim the body will then travel to Huntsville to attend the state-paid services at the cemetery." According to the Times. "Prison officials have verified 2,100 inmates who are buried at the cemetery, but they say there may be additional graves. Professor [Franklin] Wilson recently photographed every headstone and estimated that there were more than 3,000 graves."

RELATED: From the Texas Prison Museum: “The Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery is located about a mile southeast of the Walls Unit on Bowers Boulevard. It covers twenty-two acres between Sycamore and Sixteenth Streets. The land was donated to Governor John Ireland in 1855 by Sanford Gibbs and George W. Grant. The deed describes the land as 'the same upon which convicts from the State Penitentiary have been buried since the establishment of said institution, said Burial Ground having been located there-on by mistake.'”

16 comments:

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Peckerwood Hill is not the only cemetery in tdcj that may have more bodies than head stones. Boot Hill in gatesvile has a few. According to sources there is a few around the site of where the old horse barn was and you will find plenty, mostly African American children, down on the other side of the river. There is a large representation of former tjjd/tyc inmates on Pecker Wood Hill, our Juvenile justice people should be proud.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, felons like this Sheldon loser make good fertilizer.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Calm down, 10:30. You only get to talk that way 'round here if you have the balls to attach your name to your comments (so you can get a visit from the local po-po for terroristic threat, etc.).

Same rules apply to everybody - and it's the second comment string on which I've had to say so this morning, sadly - no threats of violence, implicit or explicit. Methinks it's not too much restraint to ask.

Thx. The Management.

Anonymous said...

Hey at least they got a headstone. I've heard it told that many a homeless county jail inmate didn't even get a burial, just discarded like trash at various and assundry locations in the name of saving taxpayer $$.

Anonymous said...

Sugarland has TDCJ graves also, north of HWY 59 in a subdivision.

RSO wife said...

I hope that one day Mr (or Ms) Anonymous 10:30 will wake up and smell the roses. No matter what we've done, we are all God's children and deserve respect. That doesn't mean that we don't need to pay our debts to society. What it means is that we should afford others the respect we would like to have for ourselves.

I was once told by a very smart man that whatever I give out, I will get back so if Anonymous doesn't change his (or her) thought processes, the nasty stuff that comes ou of his mouth will come back to haunt him.

David E said...

Burial for an unclaimed inmate's body by TDCJ does not say anything about the character and crime of that inmate. It does, however, say a great deal about the kind of people the rest of us are, including the wardens and chaplains, and even the inmate burial detail, who conduct the service in a dignified, respectful manner. And if burial of jail or prison inmates has been abused in the past, wherever that may have occurred, that is no justification for us today to continue that abuse. Simple respect holds the most lasting and worthwhile choice.

Kambri Crews said...

I posted this comment on the Times article but I'll go ahead and paste it here, too:

My deaf father is serving a twenty year sentence in Huntsville. At 65 years old with ten years left on his sentence, it is a real possibility that he will die behind bars. He mentioned this during a visit and said not to waste my money by claiming his body. He wanted me to let him go to "Peckerwood Hill" as Joe Byrd Cemetery is known.

When I pressed him for what he actually preferred, he said he'd want to be cremated and have his ashes spread in Lake Conroe. So, for my dad at least, it was a desire to save me the time and money. I'm glad I have the option to follow through with his final wishes. But it's comforting to know that if I couldn't, he'd be treated with some dignity and I'd have a place to visit him.

Crain Watcher said...

Sheldon: I have been told there are bodies buried under Mountain View and Hackberry Units in Gatesville and there were many to cover up that is why they built these units over those graves but do not know for sure. I heard the old horse barn and by the Leon River there are many too. The reason was that most bodies buried in the actual cemeteries were due to death by diseases such as small pox, typhoid or yellow fever. The ones beaten or starved to death was a little harder to explain so they were hidden and buried in unmark graves. This is an old dirty secret everyone in Texas especially politicians know about because they try to hide this dirty secret so well. That land is ripe for development and would bring in the state a nice sum of money but then the whole world would see want actual has went on for over 100 years in the community of Gatesville and what this towns actual values are. I have been told since the 1980’s by women down there that they believe some women disappeared and are buried down there in hidden graves and they seem to be afraid of these rumors because some believe it could still happen to them because some of them have no family in the state either. The state gave this land to TDCJ so no one would find a skeleton when they were out in their back yard digging a swimming pool or garden. To the people making threats on here, you are the biggest problem in our criminal justice system. You know only the headlines and one fact and think everyone should be locked up and the key thrown away. You know nothing of prosecutor misconduct, police cover up or judges who are just corrupt. Being sent to prison is the punishment but that is not good enough for you. You think and this is why they get away with it, that a prisoner should be abused every day in prison and broken by prison employees like what happens in the substandard prisons in Gatesville and those prison employees get the green light because they too believe this and the rest of the manure you spew. One day someone will have the intestinal fortitude to go to Gatesville and slam dunk those criminals running those prison. The ones, who break the same rules that they punish the inmates for, like sexual misconduct, stealing, trafficking and trading. You guys are so braved and buy into that tough on crime crap. Even some politicians now are saying the war on drugs is stupid. I have always said make the counties who want these people in prison so bad house them locally and let the county residents pick up the tab and I bet you would see less people would be sent to prison with these ridicules sentences for non-violent crimes. Put this parole board in check and make them follow the laws passed by the law makers and quit playing judges. It is funny how bad those parole board members want to be judges, I wonder why they do not run for the office. Because they are not qualified! I remember after the first Gulf War in 1991 and everybody came out of the wood works and wanted to be Vietnam Veterans but the only problem was most of those people got caught not only were they not Vietnam Veterans but they dodge the draft and could not even qualify to be in the Military. This is the parole board members right there. I would love to see an Occupy like Movement to protest for them to tear down those units in Gatesville and let the whole world see the history of this rotten community and the surrounding communities and make the political leaders go out and witness these crimes like the allies made the German Mayors go to the Concentration Camps and tour them. This movement would shut down all the roads leading into these modern day concentration camps. Then the state should be a women’s facility that is far away from East and Central Texas and the old timey prison sub-culture. If you think I am a loser from advocating for forgotten people who do not have a voice then so be it. I will proudly take it.

Crain Watcher said...

I got cut off because my rant was too long so here is the rst of the stroy!!!

I do realize why some people cannot or will not post their names here because if you believe the prison employees do not retaliate against those in prison then YOU need your head examine. This is the only thing they do that is not inconsistent in all the women’s facilities in Gatesville and Marlin too. It is said you can gauge a society on how civilize of their prisons are, so I guess we have nothing to brag about here.
Keep posting Sheldon and I will too!!!!!

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Yes Sheldon you are correct, Pewckerwood hill is not the only cemetery in TDC. Anon 10:30 I hope your circumstances never lead you to that dark placebecause I dont think you are the kind that can fathom that environment. There is a cemetery at Ferguson Unit in the peach orchard close to the onion whse. Let these peopl be handled by the system, history or thier GOD. It is not your job nor mine, no matter how badly I want to I will not attempt to hold them accountable. It will come in time.

Phillip Baker said...

Hallelujah, Crain Watcher! I have nothing to add, since you said it all so well. It is truly sad that kindness and compassion have become so scarce in today's America. Odd, given all the Bible-thumping going on. If we cannot treat every person with basic human dignity and respect, then who have we become? Where did we lose our humanity?

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

One of those farms down in Brazoria was called Harlem farm. It was colored only and is rumored to have more unmarked graves than gatesvile. I can’t speak for tdc’s graveyards or unmarked graveyards however I’m confident about the gatesvile unmarked graves. Talk of the unmarked graves of children was very common around the place, an accepted truism. I’ve spoken to people who dug the graves. I have a ghost story of my own I’ll post on my gssb blog soon just to get some chatter on the subject.

The current site where Hackberry stands was a popular dumping ground for field hands who perished on the job. Mostly colored boys, when they would fall out in the field they were tossed in a cage on the back of a trailer. If they survived great the boss’s got to whip a n*%%@# that night, truly the highlight of their miserable hillbilly deliverance lifestyle. Otherwise those ass wipes would assemble a burial detail and eliminate the stench. Yes Crain Watcher cage on a trailer, guess they recycled those out of the old storage barn, gruesome and macabre.

I believe the site for Hackberry school, the second one built during Turmans build up of the gatesvile facility under tyc’s initial mandate to create smaller facility’s in the 50’s, was chosen to cover up this darkness. The bodies of children were most likly interred between the time hwy 36 aka state school road was built and Hackberry was built. Hackberry lane was the original entrance to the old Training School aka Hilltop off of Coryell rd. Now a new HWY 36 has been built that runs along the caliches pit. I won’t drive on the new HWY 36 out of respect for the children who may be interred under it as recently as the late 60’s early 70’s who fell out and perished working the caliches pit or who were thought to testify against the state in Morales vs turman.

In 76 I was involved in moving the upholstery shop out of an old dorm at Live Oak that had been condemned. Now it’s being used again. Those creatures don’t want any bull dozers bringing up skeletons of children if the newer schools like Hackberry, Mountain View and Sycamore were torn down for housing development. And they sure as hell don’t want any excavation on the other side of the Leon. Hell I wouldn’t be suppressed if some of the locals dumped their own unwanted kids out there. Even today its real deliverance like in the area.

I keep thinking that someday there will be a powerful enough Black Caucus in this state, that’s not bound to the Dominionest WASP leadership, aka “The man”, who would want the historical truth to come out regarding the states treatment of minorities. Uncle Thom just don’t have the cojones to give those kids a proper burial and no one else seems to care at this time. I may need to hold out hope until 2018 when the Latinos take over, they don’t seem to be afraid of old whity.

Homeless Cowboy, It’s a comforting thought knowing that people like dog man Gerald Kitchens and Saddam Hussein will get theirs in the end. However I would like to see those children buried in the unmarked graves at the gatesvile facility identified and get a proper burial even at Boot Hill. I would attend and so would other gssb alums I bet. C/S

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Anonymous 1/5/2012 10:30 You are I liar, a slanderer, I have no felony convictions. LMAO. However your opinion of me being a looser is of course your opinion and I respect that even though you are a liar. I like to think that when I write about the sadistic characteristics of correctional workers it’s common knowledge, not slander. It’s not pleasant, because people don’t want to know how Texas leadership feels about state sponsored abuse towards woman and children, especially minorities. However I’m always willing to discuss my opinion on this topic of correctional officers being sadistic pedophiles whose only skill is to feed off the misery of their fellow human beings while sucking the state teat. Contact me, we’ll have lunch. I’ll buy and even slip you a 20 to help cover for the gas to get to Dallas from the podunk little shit town where correctional officers tend to dwell, if applicable. Free lunch and trip to the big city on a tax payer, that should be right up your ally. The catch, you will need to come out of your anonymous closet at least with me. And I promise I wont tell.

Kimberly Cruz, I have several of my state brothers buried on Pecker Wood hill. It is a very nice cemetery and have considered it as a final resting place for myself until recently purchasing plots for my wife and I. At one end of the tdc spectrum you have the most dignified and respected act like what Grits post here while at the other end you have the least dignified of tdc, the parole board. Gd forbid your Father has to die in that hell hole managed by those creatures. However should the time come and you need help, contact me, I’ll see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

I sure would like someone to gather as much information as possible on these burial grounds to write a book and get people interested.
Disregard for life and cruelty will continue in Texas until it is forced to stop.
This country is a sad, sad place and we are a sad, sad people if we fail to at least attempt to stem evil.