The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

A Missed Opportunity:
Texas Prison Reform during the Dan Moody
Administration, 927- 93 I
PAUL M. LUCKO*
PERPLEXED BY THE VICISSITUDES THAT LONG AFFLICTED PENOLOGY IN
his state, historian Ralph Steen once remarked: "The Texas Prison
System defies intelligent discussion." Lawsuits, inmate overcrowding
and early releases, allegations of mistreatment and official corruption,
increased state funding, and bonded indebtedness for new construc-
tion have loomed as major political questions in recent years. Such issues
display perdurable qualities as corroborated by a recurrence of reform
movements since the penitentiary's inception at Huntsville in 1849.1
Federal judge Joseph C. Hutcheson refused to prevent prison em-
ployees from beating four of their charges in 1924, explaining that
even "if the state passed a law to gouge out the eyes of the convicts or to
vaccinate them on the noses so they could not smell liquor, the Federal
court could not interfere."2 Later in the decade, though, a cadre of ac-
tivists stimulated by the women's movement in Texas politics gained
control of prison system management through an alliance with Gover-
nor Daniel James Moody, Jr. (1927-1931). Unsuccessful in attaining
his premier goal of facilities relocation, Moody nevertheless called four
special legislative sessions that dealt with prison reform and achieved
victories that partially satisfied the aspirations of reformers. Inadver-
* Paul M. Lucko, a former research associate with the Handbook of Texas revision project, is
currently a doctoral student in United States history at the University of Texas at Austin. He is
writing a history of the Texas Prison System.
' Ralph W. Steen, Twentieth-Century Texas: An Economic and Soczal History (Austin: Steck Co.,
1942), 183 (quotation). Steve J. Martin and Sheldon Eckland-Olson, Texas Prisons. The Walls
Came Tumbling Down (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1987), ix-xiv, 218-238; Ben M Crouch
and James W Marquart, An Appeal to justice Litgated Reform of Texas Prisons (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1989), 136-140, 235-238, Austin American Statesman, Aug. 25, 1987; Herman
Lee Crow, "A Poltical History of the Texas Penal System, 1829-1951" (Ph.D. diss., University
of Texas, 1964), 21-22.
2Dallas Morning News, Nov. 13, 1924 (quotation). Hutcheson's position reflected a "hands-
off" doctrine in which courts, deferring to the judgment of state officials, refused to accept
cases concerning internal prison conditions. By 1970 this principle had eroded Crouch and
Marquart, An Appeal to Justice, 4-11; Samuel Walker, Popular Justice: A History of American
CrzmnalJustice (New York" Oxford University Press, 1980), 243-245.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed July 30, 2014.