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Home arrow Law arrow Prisons and Punishment in Texas: Culture, History and Museological Representation


In conclusion, the dominant internal structure within these punishment stories is one of Texan modernisation; the state is portrayed as continually refining the methods by which it punishes in order to reduce the pains associated with both imprisonment and execution. There is, however, a tension within these retribution narratives. While it does little to destabilise the proposition that modern punishment is civilised punishment, it does suggest that Texas continues to embrace less civilised punishment practices. While this could be interpreted as a vengeance narrative, the lack of victimhood stories and images and the wider context within which the tension was found together suggest that a more appropriate interpretation would be to see the tension as a further expression of Texan toughness in the penal sphere. Along with the mocking tone, embracing less civilised ways of punishing is a manifestation of the Texan commitment to appear tough in the face of threat.

In short then, Texas does not tell stories about harsh punishment within an explicitly victim-orientated vengeance narrative. Instead Texas tells stories about tough punishment as retributive punishment. However, while the victim is often absent from Lone Star museum spaces, there are nevertheless numerous—albeit non-specific—references to the inmate within these punishment stories. Indeed, depictions of the prison as a place and the prisoner as a character are both used in highly specific ways to illustrate how Texas punishes, and why the Texan approach to punishments should be seen as effective. Within these tourist sites the visitor is presented with two contrasting images of the prisoner and—as the next chapter will illustrate—the tourist is then taken on a narrative journey through these inmate identities.

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