Prison City is a well-earned title that most everyone familiar with Sam Houston State University and the Huntsville area recognizes. But many, including the student body, do not realize the close vicinity in which the university actually is in relation to the Walls Unit of Huntsville. Not only is there a maximum security prison but the Texas death chamber awaits within walking distance of the university, dormitories and student parking. It is an entity that has been entwined into the city and SHSU as part of the culture and education curriculum. Even though SHSU started as an institution for educators, over time it has morphed into one of the top criminal justice schools in the nation. After speaking with several students with various classifications and majors on campus, it was not surprising to find that even though most students knew about the location of the penitentiary, they had no idea of the prevalence of executions or the fact there is one scheduled for today.
The responses of members of the student body at SHSU about the close vicinity of the prison and executions are as follows:
I know it wasn’t the main major for Sam Houston [State University] because it was founded on education but I know that its the main major here now is criminal justice because here are 8 or 9 prisons here. I don’t feel threatened and I think the community and the city is doing a pretty good of keeping everybody safe. I haven’t really seen any harm like it is in other cities.
General Business Senior
Yes there are several [prisons] in this county and they house death row inmates out on in Cleveland. I also know about the executions and that they halted one. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me and I originally came here for criminal justice and its not that big of a deal. I knew when I moved here that it was here, its always been here and it should be.
Graphic Design Junior
Its perfectly safe. In fact, its probably more safe because there is extra security and the guys in the towers. But its like Lone Star Hall is the Freshman dorm and its right down the street from the prison. There shouldn’t be any issues.
Early Childhood Education Freshman
Yes I did know that the prison was there but I did not know about the executions. I don’t like the fact that its down the street because what if something happens. The prisoners could break out and first place they would go is this university and I am not fond of that.
I’m a transfer so I didn’t know [about the prison]. I feel that no prison should be around campus. I’m gonna be more careful driving around now.
I’m a transfer from TSU so I didn’t know. Its just a prison to me so I’m not really concerned about it unless people are escaping and stuff. If I pass by it I’m going to be more careful and cautious but I’m not going to be looking over my shoulder everyday over it. At the end of the day I have to be a student and an athlete.
I heard that there are a lot of prisons in Huntsville but I didn’t know there was one right down the street. Its a little crazy. I really don’t feel threatened because there are guards and they should be on top of things. But my only concern would be if someone were to escape I’d be a more cautious when walking around. As far as the executions, I don’t mean to sound selfish or anything, but it really doesn’t cross my mind.
Criminal Justice Junior
When I came [to SHSU] I didn’t know the prison was there but I do now. I have never felt unsafe. I don’t really have any concerns about the prison or death row being so close to campus.
Yes I was aware of the location of the prison. I did not know about the executions. I feel like its safe but at the same time there is always that risk that something will happen. But for the most part its safe.
Fashion Merchandizing Freshman
Yes I was aware. It doesn’t really bother me to be honest because we don’t see all the prison stuff on campus. It doesn’t really effect us directly so I’m not bothered byt it.
Yes I did know about the prison being so close to campus. I did know about the executions. I wouldn’t say that I don’t care but it really doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it effect us. I don’t think the prisoners would break out because of all the security. But if they did I don’t think the campus would be the first place they would run to.
Yes I did know. I don’t feel unsafe at all. But if I were to be walking by myself at night somewhere it’d be a little scary. I did not know about the executions.
I am aware of the prison and I’m not surprised by the executions this week. I live across the street from the prison cemetery and my dog and I go running over there all the time. So I literally see the inmates digging the graves and burying the bodies. It doesn’t really phase me. Honestly. I think its fascinating to see the prisoner. I’ve actually talked to the prisoners and the CO’s and even seen the bodies being lowered into the graves. Its definitely interesting. And if anyone were to escape they would not stay here.
I knew the prison was there. I knew about death row. But I did not know about the executions this week. I do not know how often they have them. I don’t feel unsafe or threatened by the presence of the prison there. I think maybe the school should make the freshman more aware about it because some people get freaked out about it because when you don’t know about something is when you have problems and fear.