W.J. Estelle Unit

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W. J. "Jim" Estelle Unit
Location 264 FM 3478
Huntsville, Texas 77320-3320
Coordinates 30°53′22″N 95°29′11″W / 30.8895000°N 095.4862833°W / 30.8895000; -095.4862833
Status Operational
Security class G1-G5, Administrative Segregation, Safekeeping, Substance Abuse, Geriatric, Transient Medical Facility: All levels requiring medical treatment
Capacity Unit: 3,148 SAFP (Substance Abuse Felony Punishment): 212 Regional Medical Facility: 120
Opened June 1984
Managed by TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division
Warden Tracy Bailey
County Walker County
Country US
Website www.tdcj.state.tx.us/unit_directory../e2.html
A topographic map of the land that would later contain the Estelle Unit, July 1, 1983 - U.S. Geological Survey

W. J. "Jim" Estelle Unit[1] (E2, originally the Ellis II Unit) is a prison located on Farm to Market Road 3478 in unincorporated Walker County, Texas, United States, 10 miles (16 km) north of central Huntsville. The prison, with about 5,459 square feet (507.2 m2) 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.[2]

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.[3] The Estelle High Security Unit, the high security unit, is a supermax facility.[4]


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.[5]

Around 1991 TDCJ planned to build a separate facility for elderly inmates.[6] In 1995 the unit received its current name.[7] 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.[4] The inmate was captured about 48 hours after his escape.[7] Jones's escape was the first escape from the high security unit.[4]

On May 12, 2010 Thord "Catfish" Dockray, a prisoner with a history of mental illness, threw urine on prison guards. Guards ordered him to exit his cell, but he refused. The guards released chemicals 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]


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.[4]

The Estelle High Security Unit is a self-contained facility north of the main Estelle prison facility.[4] 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.[5]

Notable residents[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Estelle Unit." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on September 29, 2011.
  2. ^ "1995 Annual Report." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on July 21, 2010.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ a b McVicker, Steve. "Unnecessary Roughness." Houston Press. Thursday October 12, 2000. 1. Retrieved on October 2, 2010.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ a b Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Turner Publishing Company, 2004. 74. ISBN 1-56311-964-1, ISBN 978-1-56311-964-4.
  8. ^ O'Hare, Peggy. "TDCJ inmate dead after fight with officers." Houston Chronicle. May 20, 2010. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Simons, Meredith and Robert Gavin. "Texas leads nation in prison sex abuse." Houston Chronicle. Monday April 5, 2010. Retrieved on October 26, 2012.
  11. ^ McVicker, Steve. "King Con." Houston Press. Thursday February 6, 1997.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 30°53′22″N 95°29′08″W / 30.88944°N 95.48556°W / 30.88944; -95.48556