|Location||815 12th Street
Huntsville, Texas 77342
|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. 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.
The Huntsville Unit is also known informally as the Walls Unit for its large brick walls around the prison. The prison itself serves as a pre-release facility that all persons incarcerated must go to before they are released.
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. 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.
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.
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