Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and Prison Justice League release joint report describing rampant sexual assaults in Texas prisons

Published 3:21 am Saturday, November 19, 2016

Special to the Leader

AUSTIN – The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) and the Prison Justice League (PJL) released a new report today, A Texas-Sized Failure: Sexual Assaults in Texas Prisons. The report shines a light on the critically high levels of sexual assault in Texas prisons and Texas’ failure to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Last month Governor Abbott re-certified with the Department of Justice that Texas prisons are in compliance with PREA standards.

Fifty-nine percent of incarcerated survivors surveyed for the report were sexually assaulted by a staff member, and 82.3% reported retaliation from either prison staff or other prisoners after reporting their sexual assaults. Significantly, 41.2% of incarcerated survivors surveyed identified as LGBTQ and, among those, 100% said their sexual orientation was the reason they were assaulted.

“Texas leads the nation in prison rape,” said Erica Gammill, Prisoner Advocate at TAASA. “We’ve had many years of adequate guidance from the federal government on how to successfully implement the PREA standards, but this state is failing rape survivors.”

Although PREA was enacted in 2003, and states are required to certify their compliance, federal data and information obtained from prisoners show that prison rape remains a serious problem in Texas.
Texas consistently leads the nation–sometimes doubling the national average–in reports of rape and sexual abuse in the prison system. The Department of Justice has provided clear and detailed standards since 2012, but federal research points to continued high rates of rape and abuse in Texas prisons. Inmate accounts obtained by TAASA and PJL echo those findings.

“The law requires Texas officials to take certain proven steps to protect prisoners from harm, including rape,” said Annette Burrhus-Clay, Executive Director at TAASA. “When you go to prison, rape isn’t part of the punishment. Given the size of Texas’ prison system, the state has an opportunity to step up to become the national leader in implementing PREA standards effectively. But first, we have to get serious about ending this epidemic.”

The report urges the state to make efforts to comply with PREA standards across the state and to adopt other recommendations meant to reduce the number of sexual assaults taking place in state correctional facilities.

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) is the statewide organization committed to ending sexual violence in Texas. A non-profit educational and advocacy organization based in Austin, TAASA member agencies comprise a statewide network of more than 80 crisis centers that serve rural as well as metropolitan areas. Founded in 1982, the agency has a strong record of success in community education, legal services, youth outreach, law enforcement training, legislative advocacy, and curricula and materials development.