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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

June 2021

TDCJ to Rename Three Prison Units


The Texas Board of Criminal Justice voted this morning to rename three prisons within its system. They are the Eastham Unit which will become the J. Dale Wainwright Unit, the Tulia Unit which will become the Thomas R. Mechler Unit, and the Beauford H. Jester IV Unit will now be known as the Wayne Scott Unit.

J. Dale Wainwright Unit

J. Dale Wainwright Unit

In 1850, the Goree family bought land in northwest Walker County. In 1891 they sold it to the Eastham family who then leased the property back to the state prison system. And in April 1917, the Eastham Unit was established.

Located just outside of Huntsville, the unit can hold up to approximately 2,400 male inmates. It is also the location of the agency’s garment factory, agricultural operations and multiple faith-based and educational programs.

We are now changing the name of the Eastham Unit to the J. Dale Wainwright Unit in recognition of the former Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

Justice Dale Wainwright was appointed as board chairman by Governor Greg Abbott in August 2015. He is a graduate of Howard University in Economics and a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School where he earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1988. He is a former Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court and a former Judge of the 334th District Court in Harris County.

He also served as Chair of the Correctional Institutions Committee while on the Board and was a member of Audit & Review, Business and Financial Operations and Health Care committees.

Justice Dale Wainwright’s leadership has led to many accomplishments within the agency including the following:

  • A salary increase for Correctional Officers
  • Facilitating the closure of units
  • Increased rehabilitation and faith-based programming
  • Overseeing the agency’s response to Hurricane Harvey
  • Encouraging other board members to visit the staffs at units and parole offices

During his tenure, the reentry program known as STRIVE (Strength Through Restoration, Independence, Vision and Empowerment) that prepares female inmates for successful reentry was initiated.

A former president of the Houston Young Lawyers Association, co-founder of the Aspiring Youth Program and the recipient of the 2000 Legal Excellence Award from the NAACP, his notable contributions and achievements extend past his tenure on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice and his current service on the Public Safety Commission.

In recognition of his loyal service, integrity, tenacity, and profound wisdom, it is resolved that the Eastham Unit will now be known as the J. Dale Wainwright Unit.

Thomas R. Mechler Unit

Thomas R. Mechler Unit

The Tulia Unit in Tulia, Texas opened in June 1992. Located in “God’s Country”, also known as Swisher County, the facility can hold approximately 600 male inmates.

It will now be known as the Mechler Unit in recognition of Texas Board of Criminal Justice Thomas R. Mechler.

Tom was appointed to the Board in November 2005 by Governor Rick Perry. He served as a volunteer chaplain in TDCJ from 2003 to 2005. In June 2009 he was elected TBCJ vice-chairman and served in that role until August 2014. He has chaired the Audit and Review Committee, as well as the Rehabilitation and Reentry Programs Committee. He has also been a member of the Business and Financial Operations Committee, the Community Corrections Committee and the Correctional Institutions Committee.

He has been a positive influence in reinforcing TDCJ’s awareness to its mission of public safety. He has a genuine concern for the staff at each unit and all employees of the agency. It has led him to pursue strategies to prevent, recognize and minimize job-related stress. His business experience in the oil and gas industry, as well as his entrepreneurial skills, has proved valuable to the board and the executive administration. It has also helped to keep Texas prisons financially sound in the face of a changing economy and reductions in funding.

Tom has also shown his commitment to the Volunteer Programs and the Chaplaincy Operations over the years. He has championed the faith-based initiatives while valuing the work of chaplains and volunteers.

Thomas Melcher has exemplified personal integrity and faith in all his endeavors and has spent many hours traveling and studying in his role as a TBCJ Board member. In recognition of his loyal service to the State of Texas, the Tulia Unit will now be known as the Thomas R. Mechler Unit.

Wayne Scott Unit

Wayne Scott Unit

In the 1800s, the Harlem Farm was located on Oyster Creek in Fort Bend County. Years later, the Harlem Unit, named for the former farm, came into existence. But in November 1993, it was renamed the Beauford H. Jester IV Unit in honor of the 36th Governor of Texas who served from 1947 to 1949. The facility can hold approximately 550 male inmates and serves those needing inpatient mental health care. The unit will now undergo another name change, this time to the Wayne Scott Unit, named for the former Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Wayne Scott began his career in the Texas prison system in 1972 as a Correctional Officer at the Huntsville Unit. He advanced through the ranks and was appointed Director of the Institutional Division in 1994. In that position, he was responsible for administering one of the largest prison systems in the United States. He also oversaw the establishment of the first U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office within a prison. He also completed the largest prison construction program of any industrialized nation in the world.

In January 1996, Wayne Scott was named Executive Director. A progressive and compassionate correctional administrator, Wayne advocated revising the agency’s mission statement to include giving assistance to victims. He also established a victim notification hotline which allows crime victims to locate the status of an inmate within the agency’s system. He also pioneered a mediation program that allows crime victims to meet with the inmate who victimized them.

His devotion to the treatment of mental health inmates led the agency to implement several innovative programs. One is the Inner Change Freedom Initiative. It was the first faith-based pre-release program within a penal institution in the United States. There is also the Youthful Offender Program which provides programming to meet the unique needs of younger inmates. He also actively fostered the agency’s collaboration with federal, state and county law enforcement agencies. Chief among them is FUGINET, a shared information system on parole violators available to all law enforcement agencies.

The legacy and professionalism of Wayne Scott will leave a lasting effect on the field of criminal justice for many years and serves as a model of public service to generations of Texans. In recognition of his legacy and professionalism that will leave a lasting effect on the field of criminal justice for many years while serving as a model of public service to generations of Texans, it is resolved that the Beauford H. Jester IV Unit will now be known as the Wayne Scott Unit.