Lambda Legal Commends Texas Governor’s Decision to Comply with PREA

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May 21, 2015
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Passion Star, self portrait

Texas Governor Gregory Abbott has assured U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that Texas will take steps to comply with the standards set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

May 15, 2015 was the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) deadline for governors throughout the United States to either certify that their state was in compliance with PREA or assure the DOJ that they were working towards compliance with the act. In 2014, former Texas Governor, Rick Perry refused to do either, calling PREA “unnecessarily cumbersome” and announcing that Texas would not comply.

This year, Texas is the fourth of seven states who did not certify PREA compliance in 2014 to make an assurance of compliance. Florida, Indiana and Nebraska also announced that they will take steps to comply with federal standards developed to reduce rape and sexual violence in their state prisons and jails.

Lambda Legal delivered a petition and a letter to Governor Abbott on May 8th in Austin, TX, calling upon him to take the necessary action to eliminate prison rape. The petition was part of the organization’s “Stop Prison Rape” campaign, and was signed by almost 10,000 people across the country. Texas is among the states with the highest rates of sexual abuse, and it is widely understood that sexual violence in custody disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inmates.

Jael Humphrey, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist released the following statement:

This announcement is important, but our campaign is not done yet. It is easy for states to simply say that they will work towards PREA compliance, without actually making any changes. Governor Abbott and the governors of other states must use their leadership to change the culture in prisons and jails to underscore that sexual violence will not be tolerated, that perpetrators will be punished, and reports of sexual abuse will be investigated.

Governor Abbott has taken a necessary first step to stop sexual violence in Texas prisons and jails. It is only the first step, however, and sustained commitment is needed from all levels of the Texas criminal justice system to make clear that rape is not an acceptable part of any sentence, for any crime. PREA provides a framework to make desperately needed change.

Concerning PREA’s implementation in Texas, Lambda Legal client Passion Star stated:

There needs to be some kind of oversight. People placed in positions of power aren’t doing enough to keep people from being hurt, to keep people from being raped. It needs to stop.

Ms. Star is a black transgender woman currently incarcerated in a men’s prison in Texas. Since entering state custody in 2002, Ms. Star has been raped, forced to submit to undesired sexual acts to escape violence, and repeatedly threatened with sexual assault, despite filing dozens of grievances and repeatedly begging for help. In multiple prisons, Ms. Star was placed in the general population in close proximity to inmates who she had identified as having threatened her, including one occasion in November 2013 where the identified inmate then attacked Ms. Star, calling her a “snitching faggot,” and slashed her face eight times with a razor.  Ms. Star was transferred into TDCJ’s safekeeping program in March 2015, only after Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion on her behalf.

Read the press release.