Prison shut down is just a matter of time
Song lyrics to have memorialized it forever
By Elsa Maxey
Established in April 1909, the over a 100 year old prison in Sugar Land known as the Sugar Land Central Unit operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is about to become a memory. So, what will you remember?
One of the prison’s claims to fame is the song memorializing it forever. “The Midnight Special” is actually a real train and it is best known as a song performed by Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, who reportedly was an inmate at the Central Unit. Creedence Clearwater Revival also popularized a version of the “Midnight Special.”
As the story goes, prisoners lying awake could hear the sound of a train going down the tracks, still in use today alongside U.S. 90A. If the ‘ever-lovin’ light’ from the engine’s headlight would shine through the barred prison windows and be cast on an inmate, legend has it that the man would soon go free. The light of the train has been likened to the light of salvation with the train representing what could take a prisoner away from incarceration.
Most recently, state legislators announced a prison budget that is in the state’s financing plan. In it is the closure of the Sugar Land central prison unit which will save the state $25 million a year, and it makes its elimination from this area the real deal. The central prison unit is located next to the Sugar Land Regional Airport. Talks among city officials for some time now have supported measures to use the land on which it sits, 326 acres, for economic development purposes.
Take a moment and visit our website at www.fortbendstar.com and share what you know and remember about the Sugar Land Central Unit, like the chain gangs, prison guards on mounted horses, and more.
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