Get a hard look at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville

Museum Exterior | Photo courtesy of Texas Prison Museum

Take an educational glimpse at the history of Texan criminals and guards at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville.

Located in the heart of Huntsville, just off Interstate 45, this quaint museum offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the state’s imprisoned citizens.

Established in 1989, the non-profit museum gives visitors a hard look at the inside operations behind the fences and walls with numerous exhibits detailing the history of the Texas prison system.

Featuring more than 150 years of the state’s prison history, the Prison Museum is home to the famous Texas electric chair, “Old Sparky”, a replica cell, items from the famous Texas Prison Rodeo, illegal weapons made by inmates, inmate artwork, and interesting info on the Carrasco prison siege, prisons escape, famous inmates and more.

While you’re there be sure to check out the Museum’s gift shop, which sales many items that are hand-made by inmates. Click here for a complete list of museum information.

Inmate-Made Model of The Walls Unit (or The Huntsville Unit) | Photo courtesy of Texas Prison Museum

Lee Simmons, The Texas Prison Rodeo, & Bonnie & Clyde

Hired as the penitentiary’s general manager in the ’30s, Lee Simmons is known less for his operational improvements and more as the first to make positive changes for both inmates and guards. Notably, Lee is also held responsible for the demise of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Beginning in 1931, Simmons conceived the idea of a prison rodeo in Huntsville at the inmate baseball park adjacent to the Walls Unit, and the event became known across the nation and around the world as the Wildest Show Behind Bars. It was the prison system’s premier public relations event, held every Sunday in October through 1986.

Thanks to the Simmons family, treasures from the Lee era can be viewed at the Texas Prison Museum. The family has loaned several artifacts, including an album of pictures, a nickel plated pistol found in the death car of Bonnie and Clyde, a handmade five barrel shotgun by inmates hoping to escape, and a homemade pistol, are examples of items now on special display.

Contraband Confiscated from Inmates | Photo courtesy of Texas Prison Museum

Texas Prison Museum

  • Location: 491 State Hwy 75 N, Huntsville, TX 77320
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm; Sunday noon to 5pm. Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
  • Parking: Free lot and paid street parking is available in the surrounding area
  • Admission: Tickets are $5 general admission; $3 for children ages 6 to 17; $4 for seniors 65 and older, SHSU students (with ID), and active military (with ID); free for children ages 5 and under.
Sesquicentennial Plaza | Photo courtesy of Texas Prison Museum
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Cody Swann is a writer and musician born and raised in Houston. When he isn't recording or touring the country with his band, Wild Moccasins, he can be found covering live music and arts events for 365 Things to Do in Houston.