The Texas prison system leads the country in rates of sexual violence, particularly against LGBT people. It is urgent and critical that Texas Governor Greg Abbott take all steps necessary to stop this abuse.
In 2003, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a federal law designed to eliminate sexual abuse of people in custody. In passing PREA, Congress found that prison rape often goes unreported, and inmate victims often receive inadequate treatment for the severe physical and psychological effects of sexual assault—if they receive treatment at all. Congress also found that prison rape undermines the public health by contributing to the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. PREA’s purpose is to make the prevention of prison rape a top priority in each prison system.
Today, thirteen years later, we still have a long way to go to ensure that rape is not part of anyone’s sentence, as evidenced by the frequent complaints Lambda Legal receives from people who face ongoing sexual abuse while incarcerated in Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facilities.
One such person is “Tracy”*, a Black transgender and gender-fluid person who has been in the custody of TDCJ since 2009, and who has survived repeated sexual harassment, extortion and assault. Tracy reports that, instead of providing actual protection, TDCJ officials placed Tracy in administrative segregation (similar to solitary confinement), where Tracy remained for over five years.
Read more from other survivors in TDCJ custody who have shared their stories with Lambda Legal.
Lambda Legal is representing Passion Star, a transgender woman incarcerated in a TDCJ male facility. Passion has been raped, physically assaulted and threatened with murder. She filed dozens of grievances, complaints and requests to be placed in safekeeping, but TDCJ officials took no measures to protect her. Only after months of advocacy and litigation by Lambda Legal did TDCJ officials agree last year to place Passion in safekeeping.
Texas must end sexual violence in its prisons and jails. Texas must no longer callously deny incarcerated people their right to protection, or threaten them with isolation when they complain of abuse.
In a recent letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, Governor Abbott stated that Texas will use no less than five percent of its Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) funds to work towards fully complying with PREA in future years.
On July 28, Lambda Legal delivered an eye-opening letter to Texas' PREA Ombudsman detailing reports of multiple rapes and sexual assaults endured by people incarcerated in TDCJ facilities. As detailed in the letter, LGBT and other vulnerable people incarcerated in Texas need protection right now, not at some undisclosed future date.
Show your support for Tracy, Passion and all of Texas’ most vulnerable incarcerated people by taking action to end sexual violence. Sign our petition to TDCJ PREA Ombudsman Lynne Sharp and Governor Abbott and demand that they stop prison rape in Texas.
*Name changed to protect identity. We have sent a letter to Texas' PREA Ombudsman about these and other reports of abuse so that the Ombudsman’s office can investigate them and take appropriate action. We do not represent these individuals and do not have independent knowledge of the information they report.