TDCJ Ellis Unit Information

TDCJ Ellis Unit Information

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice or TDCJ has a dozen units. One of them is called TDCJ Ellis Unit or just Ellis Unit. This one is located in the state of Texas. For those who are interested in this unit and do not have any slight idea about it, the good news is that you are on the page where you will be provided with the information about Ellis Unit. Make sure to read everything well.

General Information

    • Full name: O.B. Ellis Unit
    • Inmate gender: Male
    • Accredited by: ACA
    • Managed by: TDCJ Correctional Institution Division
    • Status: Operational
    • Date unit establisher or on line: July 1965
    • Address: 1697 FM 980, Huntsville, TX 77343
    • Location: Twelve miles north of Huntsville at 1697 FM 980 in Walker County
    • Phone number: (936) 295-5756 (**010)
    • Website:
    • Capacity: 2,073 (unit), idled (Trusty Camp)
    • Custody levels housed: G1-G5, Security Detention
    • Appropriate acreage: 11,427


    • Senior warden: Anthon Newton
    • Regional director: Daniel Dickerson, Region I
    • Deputy division director: Eric Guerrero
    • Family liaison coordinator: Trenda Doze
    • Total employees: 400
    • Security employees: 264
    • Non-security employees: 99
    • Windham education employees: 17
    • Contact medical and mental health employees: 18 (medical), 2 (mental health)

Operations, Programs, and Projects

Agricultural operations:

    • Cotton gin
    • Cow or calf operation
    • Egg laying operation
    • Farm shop
    • Edible and field crops
    • Security horses
    • Security pack canines
    • Swine farrowing, nursery, or finishing operations.

Manufacturing and logistics operations:

    • Bus repair facility
    • Garment factory
    • Chair factory

Facility operations:

    • Region I (Huntsville Region) Maintenance Headquarters
    • Region I Asbestos
    • Unit maintenance

Additional operations:

    • In-service training facility

Medical capabilities:

    • Ambulatory medical, dental, and mental health services. CPAP accommodating housing available. Managed by UTMB.

Special treatment programs:

    • Gang Renouncement and Disassociation Process or GRAD
    • Returning Population Gang Renouncement and Disassociation or RP-GRAD
    • Champions Youth Program or CYP

Educational programs:

    • Literacy (adult basic education or GED), special education, CHANGES/pre-release, cognitive intervention
    • Career and technology programs: computer maintenance technician
    • Lee College academic
    • Lee College vocational: Cabinetmaking
    • Horticulture
    • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration

Additional programs or services:

    • Faith-based dormitory
    • Gang Renouncement and Disassociation (GRAD) Process
    • Adult education program (upon availability)
    • Peer education
    • Reentry planning
    • Chaplaincy services
    • GO KIDS initiative

Community work projects:

    • Services provided to county agencies.

Volunteer initiatives:

    • Substance abuse education
    • Literacy or Education
    • Life skills
    • Support groups
    • Religious or faith-based studies and activities

Historical Background

Ellis Unit was named after a former prison director of Texas named Oscar B. Ellis. This one was opened in July 1965. The designer of the unit was George Beto. He made it the strictest prison in the system. From 1965 to 1999, it was used as a unit that housed the Texas male death row. Before that, this role was held by the Huntsville Unit.


Apparently, the TDCJ Ellis Unit is located in Walker County, Texas. Specifically, it is 12 miles or about 19 kilometer north of Huntsville. Along with the Estelle Unit, it is placed in a wooden area. This unit has about 11,427 acres or 4,624 ha of space.

From the first time it was opened in 1965 to 1999, the TDCJ Ellis Unit was used as a correctional facility that housed Texas men’s death row. It explains why all the cells in this place used to have bars on them. Sometimes, a cell was occupied by two death row inmates.

The inmates incarcerated in this place worked in several sectors. They were also allowed to watch TV. As they were supposed to take their last breath there, they tried to behave well, at least to the fellow inmates. They were known to help each other and spent most of their time worshipping their beliefs. However, there were also times when they violated the rules by doing a few things such as making wine, smoking, getting tattoos, and having sex with other inmates and officers.

One of the most interesting yet heartbreaking scenes is that the night before the execution, a death row inmate usually got permission to gather with the other inmates to say goodbye.

Notable Prisoners

There are a lot of popular people who used to be incarcerated and are still serving their sentences at the Ellis Unit, such as:

    1. Charles Brooks Jr.: He was executed on December 7, 1982.
    2. Peter Cantu: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on August 17, 2010.
    3. Ignacio Cuevas: He was executed on May 23, 1991.
    4. Carlos DeLuna: He was executed on December 7, 1989.
    5. Jeffrey Dillingham: He was executed on November 1, 2000.
    6. Kenneth Foster: He was transferred to Polunsky Unit and his sentence was reduced to life in prison.
    7. Gustavo Julian Garcia: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on February 16, 2016.
    8. Humberto Leal Garcia: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on July 7, 2011.
    9. Johnny Frank Garrett: He was executed on February 11, 1992.
    10. Gary Graham: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on June 22, 2000.
    11. Anthony Charles Graves: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and was released after that.
    12. Jesus Ledesma Aguilar: He was executed on May 24, 2006.
    13. Kenneth McDuff: He was executed on November 17, 1998.
    14. Jose Medellin: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on August 5, 2008.
    15. Derrick Sean O’Brien:  He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on July 11, 2006.
    16. Ronald Clark O’Bryan: He was executed on March 30. 1984.
    17. Genaro Ruiz Camacho: He was executed on August 26, 1998.
    18. Hank Skinner: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit.
    19. Edgar Tamayo: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on January 22, 2014.
    20. Shannon Charles Thomas: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on November 16, 2005.
    21. Pablo Lucio Vasquez: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on April 6, 2016.
    22. Coy Wesbrook: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on March 9, 2016.
    23. Marvin Lee Wilson: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on August 7, 2012.
    24. Cameron Todd Willingham: He was transferred to the Polunsky Unit and executed on February 17, 2004.
    25. Juan Garza: He was transferred to BOP custody on July 13, 1999 and got executed on June 19, 2001.
    26. Louis Jones Jr.: He was transferred to BOP custody and got executed in 2003.
    27. David Graham
    28. Christopher Duntsch

Famous Accidents

As a correctional facility that used to house a death row, it is not surprising if accidents have occurred. Some of the most notable ones include:

    1. A prisoner who had been convicted of armed robbery and burglary named Eroy Brown drowned the warden named Wallace Pack. Not only that but he also shot the farm manager of the unit, Billy Moore, who he fought for Pack’s gun. Both tragedies happened in April 1981. Later, Brown admitted that he and some other inmates had already made a plan to get rid of Pack because the officer was going to expose the theft scheme in the prison.
    2. A prisoner named Rodney Hulin was transferred to the Ellis Unit. Before getting transferred to this unit, he was at the Clemens Unit and then the Hospital Galveston Unit. At the Clemens Unit, he injured himself and his injuries were fatal. In 1997, he left the world forever in the Ellis Unit.
    3. A total of six inmates disappeared from their cells for a few hours and planned to escape the prison. This happened in November 1998. One of these men, Martin Gurule, managed to successfully escape the prison. However, he did not really make it because he was found dead in a place close to the prison grounds due to drowning. This event resulted in the plan to move the death row inmates to a new location to accelerate, in addition to the fact that the unit was already overcrowded.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Ellis Unit refers to one of the units managed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or TDCJ. That’s why it is also known as TDCJ Ellis Unit. This one was used to house Texas men’s death row from 1965 to 1999. Right now, the correctional facility that is located north of Huntsville houses up to 2,400 male prisoners. For more information about this unit, you are recommended to visit the official website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at

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