The Love Story that Upended the Texas Prison System

“In 1967, a 56-year-old lawyer met a young inmate with a brilliant mind and horrifying stories about life inside. Their complicated alliance—and even more complicated romance—would shed light on a nationwide scandal.” Ethan Watters’s article for Texas Monthly on the state prison system represents many months of research in the Briscoe Center’s Jalet-Cruz Papers. 

Frances Jalet represented Texas inmates in suits against the state prison system in the 1960s and ’70s. She married Fred Cruz in 1972 after his release from prison. According to Watters, their story disrupted a system of abuse across the state and changed incarceration in Texas forever. “The Briscoe Center deserves considerable credit for the creation of this story,” says Watters (inset, with his research files from the article). “Had they not catalogued and preserved the thousands of pages of original documents from the lives of Frances Jalet and Fred Cruz, this story could not have been written with any depth or detail.”

Ethan Watters with his notes taken from the Jalet Cruz papers.