While Texas does not have far to go to fulfill federal requirements aimed at curtailing rape in state prisons and jails, Gov. Rick Perry and local sheriffs insist total compliance would be costly and, for some, impossible, reports the Houston Chronicle. Perry has refused to complete a process to bring Texas into full compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, saying it would result in unfunded mandates for local sheriffs and a fewer prison guards. The actual gap between where Texas is and where it needs to be is relatively small, but the problems that remaining noncompliant will create – including increased possibility for litigation and a loss of federal grant money – could be substantial.
At a legislative hearing yesterday, local sheriffs said the most problematic provision of the 2003 law is a requirement that minors be housed separately from adult prison and jail populations. Since Texas is one of only 10 states that classifies 17-year-olds as adults, sheriffs would be required to build separate facilities or seek new housing options for these offenders. “Most county jails just aren’t in the position to do that,” said Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk, who represents the Texas Sheriffs Association. He said the mandate makes the law nearly impossible to implement for many counties with small staffs and tight budgets. Since 2003, Texas has received $3.5 million in federal funds to become PREA-compliant, far more than any other state.