Sadly, many people get sent to prison in Texas for various reasons. Some of those criminals end up there for a short time, some for life.

Life is not necessarily their sentence, but sometimes based on their age or health, their 20-year sentence could end up being for life as they pass away there.

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The one thing a lot of people wonder though is what happens to the bodies of the prisoners that pass away behind bars. Yes, there is a prison graveyard, the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, TX.

It has existed since the mid-1800s when the first prisoner was buried there.


It's the largest prison graveyard in the United States, with roughly 100 yearly burials. The cemetery spans across 22 acres and it received a big restoration in the 1960's.


However, it's not automatic that a prisoner will be buried there, and there aren't "qualifications" you could say to end up buried there.

The first thing that happens when a prisoner passes away in Texas, whether they die naturally or by execution, is relatives or friends are contacted to see if they want to pick up the body for private burial.

Should they not be able to reach anyone, or the offer to get the body is turned down, Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery comes into play. That is when a prisoner will find their final resting place there.

Indiana State University assistant professor of criminology Franklin T. Wilson is currently writing a book about Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, and said, “I think everyone assumes if you are in a prison cemetery, you’re somehow the worst of the worst,” but that couldn't be further from the truth.

He continued by saying the reason most of the prisoners are buried there is "more of a reflection of your socioeconomic status. This is more of a case of if you’re buried there, you’re poor.”


So how many prisoners are buried there? Texas prison officials say they've verified 2,100 prisoner burials there. Byrd did his own homework, including taking pictures of every headstone in the cemetery, Based on that, he said the number appeared to be closer to 3,000 prisoners buried there.

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All information and photos have been taken from TDCJ and court records.

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