George Beto

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Grave of Beto at the Texas State Cemetery

George John Beto, Ph.D. (January 19, 1916 – December 4, 1991) was a former director of the Texas Department of Corrections, a criminal justice expert in penology, a professor, and a Lutheran minister. He was previously President of Concordia Lutheran College in Austin and Concordia Seminary in Illinois. [1]

Beto was born in Hysham, Montana on January 19, 1916. He was raised in Bloomington, Indiana. [1]

Beto advocated for the establishment of a school district serving prisoners. In 1969 the Texas Legislature authorized the establishment of the Windham School District. During his career Beto received awards for his management of the TDC.[1]

Towards the end of Beto's career as the head of TDC, an attorney named Frances Freeman Jalet assisted Fred Cruz and other prisoners who were planning legal challenges to the TDC system.[2] On two occasions Beto banned her from the TDC units, but court orders forced the TDC to let her back in. Beto then arranged to have three trustees to sue Jalet in federal court; the lawsuit said that Jalet incited revolutionary violence and imperiled the lives of the prisoners. Beto lost the lawsuit and was ordered to pay $10,000 in attorney's fees from his own pocket. In early 1972 Beto announced that he planned to resign from TDC.[3]

He was then Professor of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville for several years. Upon retirement from that position he moved to Austin, where he died about a year later of a heart attack. Beto is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Two Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons, the Beto Unit and the Beto II Unit (now the Louis C. Powledge Unit) in Anderson County were named after Beto, as is the Criminal Justice Center at Sam Houston State University.[1]

As the head of the Texas Department of Corrections, Beto was the lead defendant in the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case Cruz v. Beto, (405 U.S. 319), in which the court upheld a Free Exercise claim on the basis of the allegations that the state of Texas had discriminated against a Buddhist prisoner.


  1. ^ a b c d "Beto, George John." Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on August 8, 2010.
  2. ^ Perkinson, Robert. Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire. First Edition. Metropolitan Books, 2010. 262. ISBN 978-0-8050-8069-8.
  3. ^ Perkinson, Robert. Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire. First Edition. Metropolitan Books, 2010. 263. ISBN 978-0-8050-8069-8.

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