An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Power of Reflection
Hanging on a wall in the backroom exhibit at the Texas Prison Museum is a dark brown and white painting of infamous criminal duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It hangs among other one-of-a-kind artwork and sculptures made by inmates at various Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facilities.
“It was painted with coffee grounds and it is really fascinating that this person could do this with great detail with coffee grounds. To me, that’s quite amazing,” said David Stacks, director of the museum.
For Stacks, who filled the position in November of last year, the past is more than just memories that we reflect on from time to time. To him, history has the power to be a great tool for change.
It’s a tool that David Stacks began utilizing as a young correctional officer and continues to use in his new role with the museum.
“Being a correctional officer was really an eye-opening experience for me as a ‘wet behind the ear’ correctional officer,” Stacks said. “While I was working for the agency, I discovered something about myself, and that was, I enjoyed working with human beings and trying to understand them. In doing that, I learned a lot about myself.”
Stacks began his career with the TDCJ in 1979 as an officer at the Diagnostic Unit (now known as James Byrd Unit) while studying business at Sam Houston State University.
From there, he served at several different facilities as he was promoted through the security ranks, including filling the role as captain and lieutenant at the Terrell Unit and major at the Retrieve Unit (now known as Wayne Scott Unit); assistant warden at the Ferguson Unit; and senior warden at the Ruben M. Torres Unit, Darrington Unit, and Eastham Unit.
Stacks not only attributes his career for helping him grow, and learning more about himself, but also for allowing him to have a significant effect on those around him, both co-workers and inmates.
“I grew tremendously as a human being on the importance of treating people properly and treating people with respect, regardless of what previous wrongs they may have committed,” Stacks said. “I felt like I was making a difference, and, at the lowest level, I was seeing some positive things occurring in those areas I was responsible for.”
Through his time with the TDCJ, Stacks was able to begin working with the Texas Prison Museum, which is located in Huntsville, serving as a trustee on the museum board for 15 years.
The position of museum director combines Stacks’ past correctional career with his love of history, which began as a child due to his parents, who showed him how to learn and grow from the past.
It’s a valued lesson that Stacks hopes visitors take away from their trip to the museum.
“We should learn from our history - what we did well and how we can continue to improve upon that history. There are things that we failed and need to do better, we should never go backward to that past ever again,” Stacks said. “Our position here at the Texas Prison Museum is to tell the history, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad, and I think if we put our best foot forward every day and let that have a rippling effect across your community that can build trust. That’s the most important thing that you develop trust, and more important than trust is that you have to have an environment of hope.”