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

A Narrative Journey Through Inmate Identities

This is the final chapter in a trio of chapters which have sought to shed some light on different aspects of the Texan punishment story. In the previous two chapters we discovered boastful stories about the size of the Texan Correctional Institutions Department; sad stories about those who have lost their lives fighting in the war on crime; nostalgic stories about Old Sparky and riding the thunderbolt; impressive stories of modernisation and painful stories of grief and loss. However, what we have yet to look at in any great detail are the inmates themselves, and the institution in which they reside. This final chapter of Part III will thus consider the stories the museums and tour guides tell about the character of prisoners and the nature of prison.

In some of the stories the inmates are portrayed as dangerous criminals and in others they are depicted as reformed, responsible and humanised. However, while some of these stories offer a sympathetic depiction of the inmate, it will argued that by portraying the reformed prisoners as still deserving of harsh punishment the audience are encouraged to assume that while Texan punishment is—first and foremost—retributive, no mistake

© 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_10

should be made; it is also unforgiving. Within these stories reform is a personal journey devoid of benefit or profit. The reformed inmates do not receive any reduction in sentence, nor do they receive much in the way of perks. As we will see, the tourist is told in no uncertain terms that when an offender is given a death sentence in Texas, reform will not save them from the gurney.

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