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Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville (HV)
Location 815 12th Street
Huntsville, Texas 77342
Coordinates 30°43′19″N 95°32′44″W / 30.722027°N 95.545596°W / 30.722027; -95.545596Coordinates: 30°43′19″N 95°32′44″W / 30.722027°N 95.545596°W / 30.722027; -95.545596
Status Operational
Capacity 1,705
Opened 1849
Managed by Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Director C. Thomas O'Reilly, Senior Warden

Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville or Huntsville Unit (HV) is a Texas state prison located in Huntsville, Texas, United States. The facility is operated by the Correctional Institutions Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, administered as within Region I.[1] The facility is the oldest Texas state prison, and opened in 1849.



Although Texas' execution chamber is located at the facility, unlike similar facilities in other states, death row is not located here. Death row (males only) was located here from 1928 to 1965, when they were moved to the nearby Ellis Unit. Escapes from the Ellis Unit led the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to relocate death row in 1999 to the Polunsky Unit, where it currently remains. The female death row is located at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville.

In 1974, the prison was the site of an eleven-day siege, one of the longest hostage-taking sieges in United States history.[2]

The Huntsville Unit is also known informally as the Walls Unit for its large brick walls around the prison.[3] The prison itself serves as a pre-release facility that all persons incarcerated must go to before they are released.

Death Penalty

Between 1819 and 1923 the method of execution was hanging until Texas authorized the use of the electric chair. The chair–"Old Sparky" was constructed by inmates.[4] Between 1924 and 1964, 362 inmates were executed by electrocution. The chair now resides at the Texas Prison Museum, located on Interstate 45 on the north side of Huntsville which features displays of historical items from the prison system, including shanks and other items confiscated from inmates.

Notable inmates

Cultural references

"Huntsville", a song on Merle Haggard's 1971 album, Someday We'll Look Back references being sent to Huntsville Prison.

Cross Canadian Ragweed has a song about the prison called "Walls of Huntsville" on their 2002 album Cross Canadian Ragweed.

Steve Earle recorded "Ellis Unit One" for the 1995 film Dead Man Walking. The songs lyrics focus on the effect of the death penalty on the guards that carry it out. Earle has been a vocal critic against the death penalty.

In the 2008 film No Country for Old Men, it was mentioned that the Sheriff in Terrell County, Texas had sentenced a man to death here for killing a 14 year old girl.

See also


  1. ^ "Huntsville Prison Blues". Retrieved 2007-12-08.  
  2. ^ "Blood Hostages", TIME, August 12, 1974. Retrieved on 2008-07-13.
  3. ^ "Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2009-05-09.  
  4. ^ "Texas Prison Museum: Home of Old Sparky". Retrieved 2007-12-08.  

External links


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