Texas Prison Museum
Huntsville- If you have ever wondered about the “inside” life of a Texas prisoner take a trip to the Texas Prison Museum. Just off I-45 you can take an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the state’s least-loved citizens.
The Texas Prison Museum features numerous exhibits detailing the history of the Texas prison system, and the evolution of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The prison presents detailing information from prisoner perspectives as well as those who have worked within the prison walls.
The Texas Prison Museum attracts a diverse range of visitors from grade school field Trips to tourists from around the globe.
Now, thanks to the Simmons family, treasures from the Lee Simmons era can be viewed at the Texas Prison Museum. Lee Simmons entered the Texas prison system in 1930 as the General Manager, and arrived to an overcrowded system that was fiscally floundering. Simmons was the first to leave a positive impact for both guards and inmates.
While Simmons made vast operational improvements he is best known for developing the concept for the Huntsville Prison Rodeo and the demise of Bonnie and Clyde. Neither had to do with daily operations inside the prison system, yet both became legends of TDCJ.
In October of 1931, the Texas Prison Rodeo got its start. The rodeo that began at the inmate baseball park adjacent to the Walls Unit quickly became known around the world as the Wildest Show Behind Bars. The rodeo was held annually until 1986.
Simmons put a stop to world famous Bonnie and Clyde, after their raid on Eastham Prison Unit. Simmons called upon the expertise of former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to put a stop to the duo’s destruction. Hamer did exactly what Simmons had asked of him, and returned to him and presented a pistol from the Bonnie and Clyde death car.
Check out the nickel plated pistol found in the death car of Bonnie and Clyde, a five barrel shotgun that was handmade by inmates who were hoping to escape, as well as other objects fashioned by Texas prisoners.
The goals of the Texas Prison Museum are to collect, preserve, and maintain prison artifacts, documents, oral histories, photographs, and all prison museum collections and to publicize and showcase the history and culture of Texas’ prison system in order to attract visitors to the museum annually and to enhance learning. The museum is also charged with maintaining fiscal accountability for the operation, maintenance, and expansion of the Texas Prison Museum, Inc.
The Texas Prison Museum is a non-profitable charitable organization that began in 1989. Staffing consists of two full time employees, part-time personnel, and several dedicated volunteers. The museum depends on your support. You can help preserve a piece of Texas history by becoming a patron.
The Texas Prison Museum is located at 491 SH 75 North, in Huntsville. Take exit #118 from Interstate 45. The museum is located off the east side feeder road.
- Monday through Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm
- Sunday, noon to 5:00pm
- Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- Adults: $4.00
- Children 6 to 17: $2.00
- Children under 6: Free
- Seniors (60+), TDCJ employees, and TDCJ Retirees: $3.00
- SHSU students: $3.00 (student i.d. card required)
- Active Military: $3.00 (i.d. required)
The museum accepts Mastercard and Visa. Special weekday group tours and rates are available by appointment. AAA Discounts available.