The Texas prison system's Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery is the nation's largest prison graveyard in the country, 22 acres where thousands of inmates who were executed or died while incarcerated are buried, all of them unclaimed by relatives, reports the New York Times. In a state known for being tough on criminals, where officials eliminated last-meal requests on death row, the Byrd cemetery has been a little-known counterpoint to the mythology of the Texas penal system.
One mile from the Walls Unit, which houses the execution chamber, about 100 inmates are buried each year in ceremonies for which the state spends considerable time and money. Each burial costs Texas about $2,000. Often, none of the deceased’s relatives attends, and the only people present are prison officials and the inmate workers. “I think everyone assumes if you’re in a prison cemetery you’re somehow the worst of the worst,” said Franklin Wilson, an assistant professor of criminology at Indiana State University who is writing a book about the cemetery. “But it’s more of a reflection of your socioeconomic status. This is more of a case of if you’re buried there, you’re poor.” Prison officials have verified 2,100 inmates buried at the cemetery,