The Central Unit, in Sugar Land, Texas, will be closing, according to news recently posted on the TDCJ website.
It’s not surprising, given that there’s a budget shortfall, the land comprising the prison’s property is worth a small fortune (over $10,000,000 according to one source), and there’s a whole bunch of free, or nearly free housing on the land that is used by prison staff, yet costs the tax paying citizens of Texas a good chunk of change. Finally, and probably most notably, the prison is old, really old.
The prison was built in 1909, and as Houston grew over the 100+ years since that time, the suburbs have radically transformed the area surrounding the Central Unit, changing a rural prison farm into one of the most convenient Texas prisons for urbanites, like me, to visit.
I remember when I went and saw the place for the first time. The Central Unit really looks like something out of a movie. Driving in from the main road is quite a beautiful scene. In fact, the entry road was the inspiration for the photograph I used at the top of this blog.
When I first got a good look at the place, it sort of reminded me of the prison in Shawshank Redemption, which, by the way, is one of my all time favorite movies.
According to TDCJ, “Funding for the operations of the Central Unit is eliminated effective September 1, 2011. Affected staff will be given priority consideration for vacant positions at other TDCJ correctional facilities in the area and across the state.”
Yes, it’s really true folks…Texas is actually closing a prison instead of opening yet another one. But don’t go assuming that the 800-900 prisoners are going home. They’ll be moved to one of the other 100+ prisons in the TDCJ system. Also, don’t count on seeing any more prisons close anytime soon. According to TDCJ, that’s not being considered. Afterall, we have to remember that incarcerating people, and keeping them there, is politically popular.