Thursday, November 17, 2016

Study: Texas Prison System Routinely Ignores Sexual Assault and Rape

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 11:50 AM

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None of the sexual assault and rape cases reported by inmates in Texas prisons have been appropriately followed up on, according to a new survey of Texas prisoners. Instead, the vast majority of inmates who have reported abuse have been retaliated against for filing a complaint in the first place.

These findings, published Wednesday by the Prison Justice League and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, are only further evidence that the state's prison system is riddled with unchecked, rampant sexual abuse.

"It's not surprising at all," said Chris Kaiser, director of public policy at TAASA. "We've known this has been going on behind bars for years, but this report helps quantify it." Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials didn't have an immediate response to the report's findings when reached Thursday.

The report combined anonymous surveys from prisoners who have reported abuse, anecdotal evidence from thousands of inmate letters and data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics to get a comprehensive look at the long-ignored problem. The majority of reported assaults came from the Estelle Unit, a prison ten miles from Huntsville.

Nearly 60 percent of inmates surveyed had reported that their sexual abuser was a prison staff member. In 2014 alone, 766 allegations of
staff-on-inmate sexual abuse incidents were reported to TDCJ. At 9.4 percent, the rate of staff-on-inmate sexual assault in some of Texas' prisons is one of the highest in the nation — far surpassing the national average of 2.4 percent.

Some 41 percent of abused inmates identified as LGBTQ, and all believed they were targeted because of it. One inmate, who reported that he'd been raped in the shower by another prisoner, says he was informed by a prison sergeant: “[I] only got what [I] asked for—being gay—and that the other inmate should’ve kicked my ass.” He was then told to stop causing trouble.

"In society, we take reports of sexual assault seriously," said Kaiser. "But when we start talking about it behind bars, it becomes a punchline."

Kaiser said that just like sexual abuse victims in regular society, a large percentage of sexual abuse and rape go unreported behind bars. Being punished (many victims are sent to solitary confinement) or further abused for reporting the incidents only adds to prisoners' silence.

The report urges TDCJ to follow federal standards that mandate protections for victims of rape and sexual assault behind bars — and start filing grievances against predatory or neglectful staff members.

"[Prisoners] are already a marginalized and misunderstood population of society," he said. "And we just throw them to the wolves."

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