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First Days in the Texas Prison System – Part 1

To those people who have never been in prison or talked with someone who has been there (on the other side of the plexiglass), we thought we would offer a little insight into what happens from the time the prisoner is picked up at the county jail. This is for males, but I assume it works close to the same for females.

Usually the first sign that a prisoner gets that he is being transferred is when the jailer yells out his name and tells him to get ready, TDC is coming to pick them up.  At the jail the prisoner will be stripped out of his county duds and placed into a thin TDC jumpsuit. He is not allowed to bring anything with him other than a bible and court papers. 

The TDC guards are apparently all indoctrinated into treating the prisoners like cattle and breaking them down. They are treated with disrespect even from the first encounter. After changing into the jumpsuit they are handcuffed and shackled, then placed into a Bluebird, the type of school bus that has a flat nose. There is virtually no leg room if you are over 5'10" and any attempts to shift position are met with yells of "sit still".

Most prisoners in Texas are taken to the Gurney Unit  at an area called Tennessee Colony between Palestine and Huntsville for processing. The trip is hot if the day is even mild outside, and the bus stops repeatedly to pick up new inmates. Hardened criminals are placed next to first timers, although there is a section "fenced off" for persons convicted of murder. Gurney has about 1200 prisoners at a time, with men moving in and out on a daily basis.

The bus may stop for guards to use the restroom or get snacks. The prisoners remain on the bus, although most have some form of urinal set up.

Upon arriving at Gurney the prisoners are met as they get off the bus by the intake officer and two or more guards. They are led into a room with cement floors, cells made out of wire, and employees working behind wire, as well as other prisoners in cages or working in intake. There are both male and female employees.

The men strip naked in three lines, approximately ten men per line and are then search and to "bend over and spread them and cough" so that a quick inspection can be done to determine if they are carrying contraband. They are then either placed back into the cage or led to a line where they wait to be called for their clothing, underwear, and shoes. At some point they are also given a few small bars of soap, a disposable razor, and a roll of toilet paper. 

The men handing out clothing and supplies are also prisoners, and they seem to try to make sure that the clothing and shoes comes close to fitting, but depending on the guard supervising them,  this doesn't always happen so they should guess big when asked their size, because clothing that is too small is uncomfortable.

After getting their items they are allowed to dress, then at some point are led to a barber chair where their heads and any facial hair are shaved with clippers. They then go to a section that is a wall with shower heads where they are instructed to wash and shave, and "if you aren't clean shaven you get a strike".  In other words, written up, thus reducing the chances of making parole.

To Be Continued…

A Note:

People ask us "When is the time to start preparing a parole packet?" Most of you know, a parole packet or a parole presentation package, is a collection of documents and pictures that is sent to the parole board to help them get to know the potential parolee a little better. This is particularly important in Texas since there is not an interview with the actual member of the parole board who will be voting.

Our answer as to when to start is always the same.


There are many reasons for this, but the main thing to remember is it is better to have the information and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Many times it takes much longer to get the information together than you would think and people are forced to submit packets without all of the materials.

We discuss the various parts of the packet in our eBook, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Presentation Package, available as a download which can then be used to prepare the packet or as a download and printed copy. As a bookstore, we can mail the printed copy to a prisoner at his unit or directly to you. By all means, if you can afford a parole attorney, hire one, but if you can't, our low priced eBook will help you to do the best job possible.

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