The History Behind A Century of Lubbock County Jails - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


The History Behind A Century of Lubbock County Jails

Since Lubbock's birth, three jails have been built on the town square. In addition, Lubbock County's fourth jail is set just outside the city.  NewsChannel 11 takes a look back at more than 100 years of Lubbock's iron bars.

"This is a picture of 1919 jailhouse," Roland Myers said.  Drunks and thieves spent the night there, but so did Myers' grandparents. "At that time part of the sheriff's pay was being able to reside on the main floor of the jailhouse," Myers added.  

Myers' grandfather, C.A. Holcomb, was elected Lubbock County's seventh sheriff in 1918. The Holcomb family moved into the newly-built red Lubbock jail, located on the east end of the town square, not far from the courthouse.

"My grandmother became the cook for the inmates who were upstairs on the second floor," Myers said.  The red jailhouse was Lubbock County's second jail. The first, was built in 1891 on the northeast corner of the square at a cost $12,000.

However, by 1910 the wood frame structure no longer met the county's needs. So, the next year this nearly $14,000 facility opened equipped with heating and plumbing.

"My mother and two of her sisters were born in the jailhouse. So he moved seven children into that jailhouse and then he had three more while he was there," Myers said. The Holcombs only lived in the jail for four years.

In 1922, the sheriff traded in his badge for grocery bags. "Went back to the grocery business for few years, and then opened a tailor shop," Myers said.

Less than a decade later the county saw its third jail. "The building was complete in 1931 that cost $148,000. $148,000 bought the shell of the building, all the still work, cages, cells that had to be put in which was about 1/3 of the cost of the whole building," Author Don Abbe said.  

Abbe authored a handful of Lubbock history books. He says the 1930's jail project help create employment during the great depression. "By the early 1980's they were somewhat forced to add an annex, one story to the east end of the building, which is still in use today," Abbe added.

More jobs would come two decades later with another jail expansion. However, it would not be enough. Currently the jail is at capacity with nearly 800 inmates behind bars, which has forced Lubbock County to house additional prisoners in other counties. However, that could soon change.

Lubbock County's fourth jail is 90 percent complete with more than 1,500 and room for expansion. Chief Deputy Kelly Rowe says unlike the current rows of cells the new jail is designed around prisoner flow. "The staff becomes fully in control of this building which minimizes destruction, vandals and the buildings actual life span will extend out 50 to 75 years," Rowe said.

However, progress comes at a price of around $96 million dollars. It's a lofty total compared to the $12,000 spent on the county's first jail. But Rowe says it's well worth it. "All of the service area, the infrastructure such as the kitchen, the laundry, the infirmary, those types of things are all sized out to over 2,500 total limit population," Rowe said.

NewsChannel 11 asked Myer what he thinks of the new jail. Myer said, "I think it's a sad testimony to our society in general because it's come a long way. There was not a choice. They had to do something," Myers said.

 The Lubbock County newest jail is expected to open April 2009.

NewsChannel 11 Takes You Inside The New Lubbock County Jail
After two years of construction, NewsChannel 11 is getting an inside look at the new Lubbock County Jail.  This is one of the few jails in Texas built to maximize prisoner supervision.

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