April 1, 2014
By Paul Flahive, Texas Public Radio
Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney general last week. In it, Perry stated he would not be able to certify Texas prisons under the guidelines of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA).
Perry cited several points of issue, with the largest being cross-gender monitoring.
The guidelines establish that only members of the same sex should monitor prisoners in private settings like showers and dressing areas. Perry called the restriction "impossible" to enforce.
Texas has a dark history of sexual violence amongst its prison population. The Human Rights Watch, an international human rights nonprofit, detailed the levels of prisoner rape across the U.S. in a study. In it they highlighted the indifference among Texas administrators and staff to prisoners. This report in part led to the passage of PREA 11 years ago.
PREA guidelines were established recently after years of study, proposals, and input from prisons.
The Bureau of Prison Statistics continues to find issues within Texas Prisons. Texas holds one facility with some of the highest reported incidence rates of prisoner-on-prisoner rape and another unit with the highest reported level of staff-on-prisoner rape.
One reason cited for both issues of sexual assault are that of staffing. Human Rights Qatch made a note of it in their report. Unions for prison guards across the state argued that Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities remain grossly understaffed.
The TDCJ declined to come on our show, but offered the following statement clarifying what steps they have taken to address sexual assaults in prisons and why further PREA implementation is, in their view, impossible.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is compliant with most PREA standards. However, the standard relating to cross gender supervision would have a substantial operational impact on the agency. Approximately 40 percent of the correctional officer workforce is female, and privacy restrictions affecting the viewing of male offenders would limit their ability to provide adequate security. The grant funds in question are received and distributed by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division. The agency has a zero tolerance policy against sexual violence within the system. TDCJ, in conjunction with several independent entities such as the Office of Inspector General, the Special Prosecution Unit, and the PREA ombudsman, has an extensive safe prisons program aimed at preventing, investigating, and prosecuting sexual assault and other acts of sexual abuse. This program is in operation at all TDCJ correctional facilities. The agency is committed to the safety, security, and well being of all offenders incarcerated within TDCJ.
- Lance Lowry, president of AFSCME Local 3807 , the largest union representing correctional workers in Texas
- Chris Daley, deputy executive director of Just Detention International (formerly Stop Prison Rape)
Originally posted at http://tpr.org/post/source-gov-perry-calls-full-prison-rape-elimination-act-implementation-impossible