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Telling Tales About a 'Tough Texas'

Texas is often heralded as the most punitive state in America, yet how much do we really know about the Lone Star State and its relationship with punishment? Lots of people are telling stories about Texan punishment, but what do those stories teach us? And how is the Texan punishment identity constructed both within academic scholarship and within mediated messages? This chapter seeks to answer such questions. We will begin by exploring the sociology of punishment scholarship for Texas- specific discussion and argument, and then move on to consider some statistics relating to Lone Star punishment. Once we have established this scholarly and statistical image of Lone Star justice we will examine some recent cases which have been used to highlight Texan punitiveness in the national (and international) news media, and discuss the extent to which Texan political discourse tells similar tales of a tough Texas.

In short then, this chapter will introduce you to some of the stories being told about Texas and its relationship with punishment. We will, in later chapters, look to the stories Texas is telling about itself and its own penal policy, but in order to position those ‘insider stories’ within a wider socio-cultural context we should begin first with the stories being

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 H. Thurston, Prisons and Punishment in Texas,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-53308-1_4

told—more often than not—by the ‘cultural outsiders’. At first glance this might seem a somewhat difficult task. As noted in the Introduction, most punishment scholars only mention Texas in passing. However, there is a small body of literature from which we can learn more about a specifically Texan history of punishment. Arguably the most comprehensive of these studies—specifically about the Texan punishment past—has been conducted by Robert Perkinson.

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