Each week, the prison watchdog group Just Detention International receives about 30 letters from inmates who say they’ve been sexually assaulted in prisons across the nation. More than a quarter of those letters come from one state: Texas, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Sexual abuse is a problem in prisons nationwide. Even when adjusted for the number of inmates in a given prison system, Texas still stands out as the state where sexual assault in prison is most prevalent.
Five of the 10 prisons with the highest rates of sexual abuse in the country are in Texas. New standards were proposed in June by a commission formed after passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003. Facilities will have one year to implement the final recommendations, due this year and subject to federal approval. Texas officials say that the rates of abuse reflected in a national survey may have been artificially inflated by the report’s methodology, which recorded inmates’ complaints without attempting to verify their validity. State prison personnel say they’ve already made progress in educating prison employees and inmates alike about the need to combat sexual abuse and the options that are available to them if they’ve already been attacked. Texas is the only state to have a special prosecution unit that specializes in crimes committed in prisons.