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The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence… H. L. Mencken

Hays County Jail, San Marcos, Texas. Living quarters for the Deputy Sherriff who is the jailer, and his family, are downstairs. Jail cells are on second floor. Maid who came to the door said, "It's the nicest place I ever saw"

Hays County Jail, San Marcos, Texas. Living quarters for the Deputy Sherriff who is the jailer, and his family, are downstairs. Jail cells are on second floor. Maid who came to the door said, “It’s the nicest place I ever saw”

Wanted : historic county jails of Texas Edward A. Blackburn, Jr. College Station : Texas A&M University Press, c 2006 Hardcover. 1st ed. xii, 412 p. : ill., maps ; 26 cm. Includes bibliographical references p. ( [377]-396) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

interior view looking west in west room, jail cells to right - Old County Jail, San Elizario Plaza, El Paso, El Paso County, TX

Interior view looking west in west room, jail cells to right – Old County Jail, San Elizario Plaza, El Paso, El Paso County, TX

Along with the settlement of the Texas frontier came rustlers, public drunks, gunfighters, and other outlaws. A jail in which to incarcerate the lawbreakers was often the first public building raised in a new town.

Jail and courthouse. San Augustine, Texas

Jail and courthouse. San Augustine, Texas

Later, as government developed, public buildings — notably county courthouses and jails — assumed not only practical but also symbolic importance. The architecture of these buildings in the nineteenth century reflected the power and status with which the community imbued the government; many of the same architects applied the aesthetic standards of the day to both. In later years, the safety of the prisoners – and the citizens – became concerns and jails were remodeled or abandoned to other uses in favor of modern, more utilitarian structures.

Preston DeCosta, fifteen year old messenger #3 for Bellevue Messenger Service. I ran across him and took photos while he was carrying notes back and forth between a prostitute in jail and a pimp in the Red Light. He had read all the notes and knew all about the correspondence. He was a fine grained adolescent boy. Has been delivering message and drugs in the Red Light for 6 months and knows the ropes thoroughly. "A lot of these girls are my regular customers. I carry 'em messages and get 'em drinks, drugs, etc. Also go to the bank with money for 'em. If a fellow treats 'em right, they'll call him by number and give him all their work. I got a box full of photos I took of these girls - some of 'em I took in their room." Works until 11:00 P.M. Location: San Antonio, Texas.

Preston DeCosta, fifteen year old messenger #3 for Bellevue Messenger Service. I ran across him and took photos while he was carrying notes back and forth between a prostitute in jail and a pimp in the Red Light. He had read all the notes and knew all about the correspondence. He was a fine grained adolescent boy. Has been delivering message and drugs in the Red Light for 6 months and knows the ropes thoroughly. “A lot of these girls are my regular customers. I carry ’em messages and get ’em drinks, drugs, etc. Also go to the bank with money for ’em. If a fellow treats ’em right, they’ll call him by number and give him all their work. I got a box full of photos I took of these girls – some of ’em I took in their room.” Works until 11:00 P.M. Location: San Antonio, Texas.

In this heavily illustrated guide to the historic county jails of Texas, Blackburn takes readers to each of the 254 counties in the state, presenting brief histories and of the counties and their structures that housed their criminals. He provides general information about the architecture and location of the buildings and, when possible, describes the present uses of those that have been decommissioned.

Mexican Jail, Farm Roads 390 & 50 Vicinity, Independence, Washington County, TX

Mexican Jail, Farm Roads 390 & 50 Vicinity, Independence, Washington County, TX

Interviews with local officials, historians, and newspaper publishers have yielded colorful anecdotes for many of the jails. Revealing photographs of many of the old jails have been gathered from local and archival sources, and Blackburn himself has taken pictures of extant buildings. Together, these words and images not only provide a survey of the way Texans have housed their criminals, but also, with the aid of thumbnail maps of county locations, offer residents and tourists throughout the state a guide to a fascinating aspect of architectural and cultural history.

Sheriff Jim Halberd talking with a prisoner in the county jail

Sheriff Jim Halberd talking with a prisoner in the county jail

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