Lambda Legal Urges Investigation into Sexual Assaults of Incarcerated LGBT People in Texas

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July 28, 2016
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Following the state of Texas’s latest assurance to the U.S. Department of Justice that it will work towards fully complying with Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in future years, Lambda Legal today sent a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) PREA Ombudsman, urging investigations into several reports of sexual assault and abuse against LGBT people in Texas’s prison system.

From Richard Saenz, Staff Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Program Strategist at Lambda Legal:

LGBT people are extremely vulnerable to sexual assault in prison—this is a well-known problem.

Texas’s newest assurance is not enough. The stories we have heard from LGBT people in state custody demonstrate the state’s continued failure to act urgently to stop prison rape and sexual assault.

They need more than assurances; they need action.

In 2014, Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Passion Star, a black transgender woman whom TDCJ officials failed to protect from sexual and physical abuse. The new campaign continues this effort to help transform TDCJ so that LGBT people incarcerated in its facilities no longer have to live in fear for their safety.

The experiences gathered in Lambda Legal’s letter to the TDCJ PREA Ombudsman include two transgender women who report that they were told by TDCJ staff that LGBT people can’t be raped or sexually assaulted; a transgender woman who reports that her rape was verified by a forensic doctor and yet TDCJ found the assault to be “unsubstantiated” and then threatened to falsify her records to show that she was a “sexual predator of heterosexual men in the prison unit”; a gay man who reports that he was “sold” for $65 dollars and coerced into a sexual relationship; a gay man who reports that he was sexually extorted and when he reported the threats TDCJ staff called him a “faggot” and his requests to be placed in safekeeping were denied. He also reports that he was later beaten so badly by other men in the unit that he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. 

The letter to the TDCJ PREA Ombudsman reads:

LGBT and other vulnerable people incarcerated in Texas need protection right now, not at some undisclosed future date. The high number of requests for help that Lambda Legal and other civil rights organizations routinely receive from people incarcerated in Texas shows that Governor Abbott has not heeded our call and that Texas still does not live up to its constitutional and statutory obligations to keep people in its custody safe from sexual abuse.

This call for the investigations builds on Lambda Legal’s campaign to end prison rape in Texas. The letter also accompanies a petition launch, demanding TDCJ investigate sexual abuse against LGBT people in its prisons and jails.

Read the letter, and learn more about the campaign here.

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