End of Line
The last journey of death row inmates to execution
A typical southern town in America
Huntsville, Texas, is a city like many others south of the Mason-Dixon line. It lies on interstate 45, between Houston 70 miles to the south and Dallas 171 miles to the north.
Each of these cities has its own claim to international fame. While Houston is known for the famous broadcast from the crew of Apollo 13 – “Houston, we’ve had a problem” (commonly misquoted as “Houston, we have a problem”) – and NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Dallas is the city where John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
And Huntsville has also received national and international attention for decades. The city of 36,000 was established in 1835 and is home to seven correctional facilities – including the Walls Unit downtown, the part of the Huntsville Penitentiary Prison where more executions are carried out than anywhere else in America.
A southern city that could hardly be more typical, but also a place of things that are somewhat at odds with the “law and order” image that Texas bears almost like a stigma: A university (named after one of the founding fathers of Texas, Sam Houston) and 70 churches. A testament to the conservative, highly religious attitudes of most Texans. But there are also seven correctional facilities.
There have been jails in Huntsville since 1848, and the state has about 100 in total. This is more jails per capita than any other state in America. Guards and inmates call it “the largest hotel chain in Texas”, and seven of them are in Huntsville alone.
The then young state made the city the center of Texan penal correction – many say as compensation for the fact that Austin was made the capital of Texas instead of Huntsville, the home town of Sam Houston.
The criminal justice system and corrections – a good employer.
A bizarre small town feeling rooted in American righteousness and shaped by the strictest enforcement of justice in the United States. Every third or fourth resident of Huntsville is behind bars (the statistics on the total number of prisoners in the jails in the city vary between 13,000 and 15,000).
This makes the prison system the largest employer in Huntsville by far. The city’s unemployment rate is only 2 percent! The perhaps best legal system in America, as the responsible city government members and agencies – including proponents of the death penalty – claim, provides a large number of secure jobs. A system that should – and must – act as a deterrent.
Former warden Lon Bennett Glenn is firmly convinced that there will always be people who break the law.
That evil always has its attraction.
Because we don’t want violence in our cities or on our streets, the prison system has to be the way it is, he says.
He believes that there is no other way to stop drugs, violence, and crime.
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