Prison Closing Blues

The Central Unit in Sugar Land is now closed. (Photo by Justin Dehn/Texas Tribune)

Here’s a new one: in Texas, we’re shutting down a prison. Not because there aren’t enough inmates – no, they have shut down one of the state’s oldest prisons because they want to turn the property into a shopping center.

Texas is looking for ways to save money and shutting the Central Unit in Sugar Land will save about $12 million a year. Texas bought the prison property in 1908 from Imperial Sugar, the company for which Sugar Land was named. The current prison, built in 1932, housed more than 1,000 inmates at times.

It was originally called the Imperial State Prison Farm, and one of its most famous occupants was Huddie Ledbetter, who was imprisoned there in 1918 or so. That’s where the singer known as Leadbelly most likely learned the traditional song “Midnight Special.” Leadbelly added some lyrics and it’s a classic today.

So today let’s spin some jail songs.

MP3: “Midnight Special” by Leadbelly

MP3: “Life In Prison” by the Byrds

MP3: “I Fought The Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four

MP3: “San Quentin” (live) by Johnny Cash

MP3: “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard

MP3: “Prison Song” by Graham Nash

MP3: “Christmas In Prison” by John Prine

MP3: “County Jail” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “Ellis Unit One” by Steve Earle

MP3: “Penetentiary Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins w/Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee

MP3: “Jailhouse Rock” by ZZ Top

MP3: “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

2 Responses to “Prison Closing Blues”

  1. once went in there to photograph for a news story on prison crowding. Scary place, mainly young violent offenders. I swear I kept hearing in my head as I looked into prisoners eyes, “I’ll cut you!”

  2. Another fine mix. The Bobby Fuller Four “I fought the law” many have tried but none have come close to the original

    Thanks

    Rhod

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