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Texas Prison Museum (Home of Old Sparky)

Texas Prison Museum (Home of Old Sparky)

Texas has 115 prisons; six of them are in Huntsville, Texas along with the 10,000 sq. ft. Texas Prison Museum. Exhibits at the Museum trace the development of the Texas penal system from 1848 to today. (The state currently houses 150,000 prisoners with an annual budget of $2.5 billion -- $16,666.67 per prisoner per year.) The Museum's prize possession is Old Sparky, an electric chair that fried 361 prisoners between 1924 and 1964. It was made by prison workers, rescued from a prison dump, and is now displayed in a replica Death Chamber. Nearby is a photo of dog-faced Captain Joe Byrd, who started pulling Old Sparky's switch in 1936. "He was as tough as they came, but was loved because of his compassion," reads the accompanying caption. "He died on the job." The gift shop, whose managers obviously understand their audience, sells "Death Row caps."

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