W.J. Estelle Unit

Coordinates: 30°53′22″N 95°29′08″W / 30.88944°N 95.48556°W / 30.88944; -95.48556
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W. J. "Jim" Estelle Unit
W.J. Estelle Unit is located in Texas
W.J. Estelle Unit
Location in Texas
Location264 FM 3478
Huntsville, Texas 77320-3320
Coordinates30°53′22″N 95°29′08″W / 30.88944°N 95.48556°W / 30.88944; -95.48556
Security classG1-G5, Administrative Segregation, Safekeeping, Substance Abuse, Geriatric, Transient Medical Facility: All levels requiring medical treatment
CapacityUnit: 3,148 SAFP (Substance Abuse Felony Punishment): 212 Regional Medical Facility: 120
OpenedJune 1984
Managed byTDCJ Correctional Institutions Division
WardenMichael Britt
CountyWalker County

W. J. "Jim" Estelle Unit[1] (E2, originally the Ellis II Unit) also known as the Estelle Supermax Penitentiary, is a prison located on Farm to Market Road 3478 in unincorporated Walker County, Texas, United States,[2] 10 miles (16 km) north of central Huntsville. The prison, with about 5,459 acres (2,209 ha) of space, is operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The unit, which opened in June 1984, was named after Ward James "Jim" Estelle, a former prison director of Texas.[3]

A topographic map of the land that would later contain the Estelle Unit, July 1, 1983 - U.S. Geological Survey

The Estelle Unit has a geriatric facility, a program for physically handicapped inmates, a program for substance abuse, a high security unit, and a regional medical facility.[4] The Estelle High Security Unit, the high security unit, is a supermax facility. The current warden is Michael Britt, appointed in November, 2022.[5]


Aerial photograph of the Estelle and Ellis units, March 8, 1989, U.S. Geological Survey

The unit opened in 1984.[1] The Estelle High Security Unit was designed in response to an increase in prison violence in the Texas prison system.[6]

Around 1991 TDCJ planned to build a separate facility for elderly inmates.[7] In 1995 the unit received its current name.[8] In 1999, a prisoner named Clifford Dwayne Jones escaped by slipping one of his hands out of a pair of handcuffs and then scaling several walls. The inmate left behind his clothes and shoes, possibly to foil tracking dogs.[5] The inmate was captured about 48 hours after his escape.[8] Jones's escape was the first escape from the high security unit.[5]

On May 12, 2010 Thord "Catfish" Dockray, a prisoner with a history of mental illness, threw urine on correctional officers. Officers ordered him to exit his cell, but he refused. The officers utilized chemical agents to try to subdue Dockray, but he continued his assault. After Dockray was subdued, medics attended to Dockray, who refused medical care. On May 13 the prisoner was found face down in his cell. The prisoner was taken to Huntsville Memorial Hospital, where he died.[9]

As of 2010 a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that the percentage of prisoners who were sexually abused within the preceding year was 15.7% at Estelle.[10] The BJS surveyed inmates in hundreds of state and federal prisons and county jails. Nationwide, the rate of inmates reporting sexual victimization within a prior 12-month period was 4.5 percent. The Estelle rate was the highest in the U.S.[11]

Two correctional officers secretly allowed three inmates to fight each other on April 29, 2015 and attempted to cover up the act. They later confessed and were given prison sentences.[12]


The Estelle Unit is a part of a large compound, sharing space with the Ellis Unit, which is 3 miles (4.8 km) away from Estelle. The area housing the Ellis and Estelle units is wooded.[5]

The Estelle High Security Unit is a self-contained facility north of the main Estelle prison facility.[5] The high security unit was the first of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's "super seg" units, which have many administrative segregation cells. The security unit houses many of the most violent male prisoners in the State of Texas. The security unit also houses prisoners who purposefully cause problems in order to escape from the general population for fear of victimization.[6]

Notable inmates[edit]


Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
David Ray Conley III 04138107 / 02370867 Serving a life sentence without parole. Perpetrator of the 2015 Harris County shooting in which he murdered his ex-girlfriend, Valerie Jackson, and 7 other members of her family.[13][14][15][16]
Bernie Tiede 05931666 / 00864378 Scheduled for release in 2098. Eligible for parole in 2029.[17] Murdered Marjorie "Marge" Nugent in 1999.[18][19]
Miguel Alvarez-Flores 16731684 / 02337494 Scheduled for release in 2057. Eligible for parole in 2037. One of 2 perpetrators of the 2017 Murder of Genesis Cornejo-Alvarado, and the kidnapping of other girls, and the case is remembered for the unusual involvement of Satanism.[20][21][22][23]



  1. ^ a b "Estelle Unit Archived 2010-01-25 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on September 29, 2011.
  2. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Walker County, TX" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. pp. 4 (PDF p. 5/26). Retrieved 2022-08-12. Estelle Regional Medical Ctr
  3. ^ "1995 Annual Report." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on July 21, 2010.
  4. ^ de la Luz Martínez, María. "Taking a hard look at prisons." Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Northern Hemisphere Spring of 2006. Retrieved on May 7, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ward, Mike. "Hunt is on for escaped killer." Austin American-Statesman. June 29, 1999. A1. Retrieved on November 27, 2010. "Clifford Dwayne Jones' escape from the Estelle High-Security Unit on Sunday afternoon was the first from a Texas prison this year and the first from the "super max" lockup, as the unit is called."
  6. ^ a b McVicker, Steve. "Unnecessary Roughness." Houston Press. Thursday October 12, 2000. 1. Retrieved on October 2, 2010.
  7. ^ "BC-TX--WEEKENDTOPIC:ELDE Texas prison programs address special needs of elderly inmates." Associated Press at the San Antonio Express-News. August 16, 1991. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Turner Publishing Company, 2004. 74. ISBN 1-56311-964-1, ISBN 978-1-56311-964-4.
  9. ^ O'Hare, Peggy. "TDCJ inmate dead after fight with officers." Houston Chronicle. May 20, 2010. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Kaiser, David and Lovisa Stannow. "The Way to Stop Prison Rape." The New York Review of Books. February 25, 2010. Retrieved on October 26, 2012.
  11. ^ Simons, Meredith and Robert Gavin. "Texas leads nation in prison sex abuse." Houston Chronicle. Monday April 5, 2010. Retrieved on October 26, 2012.
  12. ^ Stark, Cody (2017-07-31). "Former corrections officers who facilitated inmate fight will serve jail time". Athens Review. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  13. ^ Holley, Peter (2021-10-25). "Houston man accused of killing 6 children, 2 adults before standoff with police". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  14. ^ "Texas Man David Conley Accused of Killing 2 Adults, 6 Children in Dispute With Ex". NBC News. 2015-08-10. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  15. ^ "Houston sheriff: "We're all hurting" after mass murder - CBS News". www.cbsnews.com. 2015-08-09. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  16. ^ Gonzalez, Ana (2021-10-07). "Man who killed 8 people, including 6 children, in NW Harris County sentenced to life in prison". KPRC. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  17. ^ "Inmate Information Details: TIEDE, BERNHARDT II". Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
  18. ^ "Bernie Tiede Re-Sentenced To Life, Family of Murder Victim Vindicated". Peoplemag. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  19. ^ Silver, Johnathan (2016-04-23). "Jury Sentences Bernie Tiede to 99 Years or Life". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  20. ^ "Cops: Gang members suspected in slaying, kidnapping had Satanic shrine - CBS News". www.cbsnews.com. 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  21. ^ independent, Associated Press The Associated Press is an; City, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York (2017-03-04). "Two gang members in U.S. illegally are accused of kidnapping 3 girls, killing 1 in a satanic ritual". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  22. ^ Selk, Avi (2021-10-28). "MS-13 gang members accused of killing teen claimed Satan 'wanted a soul,' police say". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  23. ^ "2 MS-13 members convicted in 'satanic killing' of Houston teen get 40 years in prison". ABC13 Houston. 2021-05-26. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  24. ^ "Inmate Information Details: WARDRIP, FARYION EDWARD". Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
  25. ^ "Offender Information Details: FIERRO, CESAR". Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Archived from the original on 2021-08-18.
  26. ^ McVicker, Steve. "King Con." Houston Press. Thursday February 6, 1997.

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