Friday, March 23, 2012

Hays County 'moveable jail' looking to settle down

Here's a bit of Texas carceral history I was unaware of; reports the Hays County Free Press:
The Hays County Jail’s Moveable Jail Cell in San Marcos is one of nine sites that a statewide preservation group has named to its ninth annual list of Texas’ Most Endangered Historic Places.

The moveable jail cell was constructed for the Hays County Jail in Kyle and, today, it is a rarity of its kind. The cells were referred to as a “calaboose,” the Spanish word for jail, and were constructed using the cribbing method where the walls are arranged in sets of logs or timber in a log-style cabin formation to create a rising rectangle or square.

The jail cell remained in use until 1925 as Kyle’s city jail and, later, was moved to the Texana Village at Aquarena Springs. Due to lack of funding, the jail cell along with other buildings and artifacts were removed from the Village. At the eleventh hour, the jail cell was saved and moved to its current location at the San Marcos Academy.
The jail cell is a valuable piece of Hays County history but for generations it has been shuffled around the county. It needs a permanent home where it can be restored and appreciated, Preservation Texas argues. Local advocates are working to raise funds and to increase public support to preserve the moveable jail cell in order to tell a broader story of the county’s history.
Here's a picture of Hays County's two-man "moveable jail":

Looks like it could be mistaken for a deluxe outhouse! The story says "calaboose" is the "Spanish word for jail," but to clarify, "jail" in Spanish is typically "cárcel," while "calabozo" has more the dark, dank implications of the English "dungeon." Sitting out in the sun during a hot Texas summer, though, this structure would have felt more like some sadistic, claustrophobic sweat lodge.

Is there a place in the modern world for a moveable jail? What functions did mobility fulfill (work crews, perhaps?) that a stand-alone structure wouldn't? Or was it just the case that until 1925, Kyle didn't need more than that?

You can see the idea might be taken to an extreme, if perhaps in the realm of fiction. In my mind's eye I imagine prisons designed as mobile pods with prison transfers accomplished by cranes picking up whole sections filled with inmates and stacking them on trains like boxcars. Or then, perhaps I shouldn't give TDCJ any ideas!

A moveable jail ... who'da thunk?


The Homeless Cowboy said...

Im thinkin space ships full of convicts sent to other planets, it worked in Austrailia didnt it?/

Anonymous said...

For the maritime version, check out Wiki's entry on "Prison Ship". New York City reportedly has a prison barge as an adjunct to Rikers Island. Some interestig marine correctional history. Brits were infamous for their prison hulks.

diogenes said...

Maybe the portable jail was so they could stay one step ahead of the Safety inspectors?

Anonymous said...

"A moveable jail ... who'da thunk?"

The fine lovable corrections officers who thought up "diesel therapy" which I believe may have contributed to Irwin Schiff* having a toe amputated. Another source said it was from having the wrong size boot.

*The income tax activist, the only author in America currently prohibited from selling his book (The Federal Mafia) or speaking in public about the tax laws. If you have a taste for the IRC his book is most interesting and his argument (technically there is no income tax on wages) is most interesting

Anonymous said...

There's a preservation group for everything. I used to have a book called "Nature Calls". There is a
group for the preservation of outhouses!

I'm not surprised that it's saved for education. That's what was done with the prison ship...turned it into a museum.

Now, is Texana village one of those "re-enactment" villages? What is San Marcos?


Wes Ferguson said...

Thanks for linking to our story. Be sure to check out the more thorough (and much more interesting) article about the old jail after we post it Monday morning.

According to historical accounts, the city of Kyle stopped using its little wooden jail after "going dry" -- the lockup was no longer needed with no more drunks stumbling through town.

- Wes Ferguson, editor