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Rick Perry Refuses to Help Eliminate Prison Rape

Rick Perry Refuses to Help Eliminate Prison Rape

With more than a decade to get into compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, Texas Governor Rick Perry is crying foul. Stopping prison rape in Texas, you see, is “impossible,” according to Perry, who says that Texas prisons can’t get into compliance or even provide an assurance that they’re working on the issue by the May 15 deadline. Given that Texas has been named the prison rape capital of the United States, it’s unsettling to hear that the state’s governor has so little interest in addressing the issue, which leaves 200,000 prisoners nationwide victimized annually, including men, women and children in a variety of prison settings.

PREA was a direct result of growing awareness and activism around prison rape, a serious issue that, while it may be made into the stuff of jokes in some settings, is no laughing matter. Prisoner-on-prisoner sexual assault, coercion, rape and physical assault are alarmingly common, as are guard-on-prisoner interactions of a similar nature. Take the case of “anonymous,” a transgender woman in Texas who was forced into a men’s prison, where she endured endless torment that should have been prevented under PREA — and as a basic human rights issue.

Lawmakers provided a decade for states to get into compliance with the law, and they specifically planned for states like Texas, which have a very large incarcerated population and a very conservative government that might not make prison rape a priority. A commission came up with a set of firm regulations in 2012 and provided two years for states to get into compliance with basic requirements like separating minors from the adult population and not allowing opposite-gender guards to oversee inmates. However, for states who couldn’t comply, legislators and rulemakers built in a grace period. If states can provide an “assurance” that they’re working on prison rape, backed by a budget of at least 5 percent of their federal prison funds, they’ll satisfy the standards. For now.

Perry, however, claims that even this is too difficult for him. While PREA was passed with bipartisan support and has been largely adopted and supported across the country, Perry has consistently resisted it. In a letter sent to the Department of Justice, he complained about the standards, citing “operational realities” that made it unfeasible for Texas to apply the standards, and he encouraged other governors to follow suit with his refusal to comply. His insistence that justice for Texas prisoners is simply too expensive isn’t sitting well with prison reform advocates who have been working on conditions in Texas prisons for decades.

Perry claims that staffing requirements are too expensive, and that PREA conflicts with regional laws designed to address prison rape, in addition to laws regarding criminal responsibility. However, with Texas rapidly barreling towards a deadline it’s willfully ignoring, the state is opening itself wide to potentially extremely costly lawsuits from inmates who may sue on civil rights grounds. The “savings” provided by refusing to comply with the law may be canceled out by the cost of defending multiple suits across the justice system.

Some of the most violent, dangerous prisons in the nation are in Texas, and conditions are even worse for LGBQT inmates. That’s why PREA was passed: to create a clear national standard for addressing and eliminating prison rape in the United States, addressing a key human rights issue and national shame. If Perry continues to dig in his heels on the issue, his state’s prison rape epidemic is on him.

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Photo credit: Ed Schipul.

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168 comments

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9:39AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

No one should have to endure a rape. Children should never even be thought of that way. Too many willing adult persons out there.

9:39AM PDT on Jul 9, 2014

horrible

3:51PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Judie B: Sounds like you actually enjoy the thought of prison rape.

12:54PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Perhaps Perry would have a change of heart if he stayed a few weeks (or months) with the inmates and enjoyed first-hand experience of the issue. I would imagine he'd change things in a heartbeat, then.

7:03AM PDT on Apr 21, 2014

Tia...you astonish me with your sarcastic suggestion of spas, massage, etc.

Our Constitution expressly forbids ''cruel and unusual punishment" and, although incarceration is legal, refusing to protect inmates from physical harm, rape, etc, is NOT part of the sentence.

You call yourself "Christian"....are we to assume you feel your Jesus would approve of throwing people into prisons and making rape part of that experience?

2:09AM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

Rape is rape. There are NO excuses................

6:38PM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

Pia you are hardly the poster child for mercy, empathy and understanding. You are obviously jaded by your experiences.

Your eye for an eye BS is typical. Your application of your kreestian beliefs, and your preference for the old testacle over the new is typical and it would be best for all if you relinquished your Care2 profile and kept your opinions to yourself.

Your are not indeed incredible, but you are typical and so judgmental it is difficult to know that people such as you exist and actually vote.

11:06AM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

Charlene R: The name is Tia not Pia. My suggestion to you and anyone else who has a bleeding heart for criminals and a problem with "for profit prisons" is to band together and open your own for profit or better yet non profit prison where you can interact with these prisoners on a daily basis, give them a better prison life by offering things such as a daily menu to order their meals from, a gym and spa, massage therapy, maybe some clothes other than prison issued, and let's throw in some weekend congucal visits. For your information woman, nobody "hurt me so badly as a young person". The fact of the matter is that I have had much more inside interaction and knowledge (at a professional level) of prison life and those who are in prison than you or most of the people such as yourseolf who are sympathetic to the plight of criminals. I also have known people personally who have served time. So please, save your psycho babble for someone else and refrain from expressing opinions of something you know nothing about.

5:47PM PDT on Apr 17, 2014

May I add, that Governor Perry is a typical heartless Teapublican.
The most scary thing of all, is that toooooo many people in our great country, think the same as they do.

5:43PM PDT on Apr 17, 2014

To Pia: If you labor under the delusion, that ONLY guilty people go to prison, you are living in a dreamworld.
When you talk about 'an eye for an eye', that is called vengeance, not justice. That makes you, your own worse enemy, but it is self-destructive. Who hurt you so badly as a young person?

Most prisoners will be released some day and what do you think will be the consequences of their harsh treatment in prison? Just hope you and/or your loved ones are not one of their victims.

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