TX Prisons Say Sex Assaults Down; Cases Likely Underreported


Texas prison officials say they have reduced inmate rape by almost 40 percent in the past three years, but that statistic may not reflect reality, reports the Houston Chronicle. Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston noted that statistics used in a recent Hearst newspaper article on Texas prison rape are three years old. Livingston said the state has made progress in reducing inmate-on-inmate sexual assault since that time.

The state prison system officially had 248 confirmed inmate-on-inmate sexual assaults in 2007; 195 in 2008; and 154 in 2009. “From all of the reporting, the alleged sexual assaults in our system, those numbers are headed in the right direction,” Livingston said, adding, “One sexual assault is one too many.” The numbers reflect sexual assaults that were reported to the Office of Inspector General and were determined to have some element of non-consensual sexual assault. However, a U..S. Bureau of Justice Statistics anonymous survey of prison inmates done in 2007 estimated that 15.7 percent of the inmates at the Estelle Unit alone had been victims of sexual abuse. That would have accounted for about 433 inmates in that one unit in 2007. If the survey of 15 Texas prison units is correct, more than 2,600 state inmates were victims of sexual abuse in 2007 – almost 10 times what the state is reporting. Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said some incidents that offenders consider sexual assault do not meet the legal definition, and in other instances an offender may claim a security strip search was a sexual assault. State Rep. Garnet Coleman believes the prison system narrowly defines sexual assault to reduce the magnitude of the problem.

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