Skip navigation

A Texas-Sized Failure - Sexual Assaults in TX Prisons, PJL TAASA, 2016

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
A TEXAS-SIZED FAILURE:
Sexual Assaults in Texas Prisons

A joint report of the Prison Justice League & 1the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

Acknowledgements
This report was written by Erica Gammill & Elia Inglis. All content copyright © Prison
Justice League and Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, 2016.
Thank you to everyone who wrote to share their experiences with sexual assault in a
Texas prison and who completed our survey.
••
The Prison Justice League (PJL) amplifies the voices of prisoners and their loved ones to
end mass incarceration in Texas.
••
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) is committed to ending sexual
violence in Texas through education, prevention and advocacy. In the meantime, we
desire to support survivors on their paths to hope, healing and justice. TAASA is the
voice of the sexual assault movement in Texas. We are a unifying force bringing together
parties involved in and affected by sexual assault as a catalyst for change.

Table of Contents
Introduction ..............................................1
Methodology ............................................1
Significant Findings .................................2
Background & Context ...........................3
General PREA Requirements ..........4
PREA Implementation in Texas .....4
Investigations .....................................5
Protection ...........................................5
The Problem ..............................................6
Narratives From Inside .........................10
Recommendations ................................14
Conclusion ..............................................15
Sources .....................................................16

INTRODUCTION
Every person, including individuals in jail or prison, deserves to be free from sexual violence. Sexual
victimization is not included in a prison sentence, and it should not be part of the punishment. States
bear legal responsibility under the Constitution and federal law for protecting prisoners in its facilities
from sexual violence and other serious harm. Yet, people in prison are at heightened risk of sexual assault.
In particular, the State of Texas and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) have failed to
protect prisoners in their custody from sexual assaults. Despite more than a decade of federal legislative
efforts and oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice—including the Prison Rape Elimination Act
(PREA)—the prevalence of sexual assault remains high in Texas prisons. Several prisons in Texas have
among the highest rates of sexual victimization in the nation. Regardless of claims that PREA standards
are being implemented in Texas prisons, reports from prisoners themselves indicate that sexual assaults
in Texas correctional facilities remain a serious problem. The alarming frequency of sexual assault in Texas prisons not only contributes to conditions in Texas facilities that are abhorrent to human dignity, but
also violates the constitutional and human rights of prisoners in the TDCJ.

METHODOLOGY
Because detailed statistical research on sexual violence in Texas prisons is rare, we rely significantly on
the 2011-2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report on sexual victimization in adult prisons and
jails for evidence of TDCJ’s compliance or noncompliance in and around that time period. For a more
contemporary snapshot, the Prison Justice League (PJL) sent a confidential sexual assault survey in May
2016 to inmates who had self-reported a sexual assault at some point during their incarceration. Inmates
who responded to the survey did so voluntarily. All survey results were gathered by self-reports, and
communication between PJL and the inmates was limited to written, legal correspondence. In addition,
data and narratives were collected over a six-month period from correspondence between TDCJ inmates
and both PJL and Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA). This report highlights and analyzes findings from that correspondence and the 2016 PJL survey, and places those findings in context of
TDCJ’s PREA compliance efforts from 2003 through 2015.

1

SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS
---------100%---------

Survey respondents reported sexual assaults at
15 prison units across the state with the majority
of reports coming from three units:

of survey respondents reported their assault
to someone (e.g., unit-level staff, OIG, PREA
Ombudsman), there was not a single instance of
a successful investigation reported or a favorable
outcome.

40%

--------58.9%--------

Estelle Unit in Huntsville

of survey respondents reported being assaulted
by a staff member.

20%

--------41.2%---------

Robertson Unit in Abilene

of survey respondents identify as LGBTQ.

--------82.3%--------

20%

of survey respondents reported retaliation from
either prison staff or other inmates after reporting
their sexual assault. The most common form of
retaliation was receiving a disciplinary case.

Allred Unit in Iowa Park

BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
Prison rape is a national problem, one that exists in nearly every correctional setting in the country. In an
effort to mitigate the high incidence of prison rape across the nation, the Prison Rape Elimination Act
(PREA), was enacted in 2003 to eliminate sexual abuse prevalent in correctional facilities. PREA requires
the development of national standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to prison rape, with the
goal of reducing the number of sexual assaults behind bars. The final PREA standards developed by The
National Prison Rape Elimination Commission became effective June 20, 2012.

2

Three Clear Goals of PREA
PREVENT

detect

RESPOND

Develop and maintain
a zero tolerance policy
regarding sexual abuse

Make inmates aware of
policies, and inform them
how to report sexual abuse

Provide timely and
appropriate medical and
mental health care to
victims of sexual abuse

••

••
••

Screen inmates for risk of
sexually abusive behavior
or risk of being sexually
abused, and use screening
information to inform
housing, work, education,
and program assignments

Develop policies to prevent
and detect retaliation
against those who report
sexual abuse or cooperate
with investigations

Provide access to victim
advocates from rape crisis
centers for emotional
support services
••

••
Train employees on their
responsibilities to prevent,
recognize, and respond to
sexual abuse

Establish an Evidence
Protocol to preserve
evidence following an
incident and offer victims
no-cost access to forensic
medical exams

••

••

Ban cross-gender “pat”
searches of female inmates
in prisons

Investigate all allegations
promptly and thoroughly,
and deem allegations
substantiated if supported
by a preponderance of
evidence

••
Restrict the use of solitary
confinement as a means
of protecting vulnerable
inmates

3

General PREA Requirements

PREA Implementation in Texas

PREA requires recipients of federal funding to
adopt a zero-tolerance standard for the incidence
of prisoner sexual assault and to develop standards for the detection, prevention, reduction,
and punishment of prison rape in facilities under
state operation or control. For example, PREA
prohibits any non-medical staff in a facility from
performing cross-gender strip- or body-cavity
searches on prisoners.1 Further, prison staff are
prohibited from checking the genitals of a prisoner to determine biological sex.

The TDCJ created the Safe Prisons Program in
2003. The program was established prior to the
passage of PREA to address the problem of sexual abuse behind bars.4 The office, now known
as the Safe Prisons/PREA Management Office
(SPPMO), provides technical support regarding
regulatory operating policies for both the unit
and region staff. They also maintain a database of
reported sexual assaults committed by prisoners
while in custody.
In addition to the SPPMO, TDCJ created the position of PREA Ombudsman in 2007. This position coordinates the agency’s efforts to eliminate
sexual assault in Texas prisons and provides an
independent office to respond to allegations of
sexual assault. This office is also responsible for
ensuring adherence to PREA standards across
the correctional system.

PREA requires state governors to comply with
federal standards, or risk losing 5% of any Department of Justice (DOJ) funds that would otherwise be used for correctional purposes.2 PREA
standards also require correctional facilities to
screen incoming prisoners for the risk of being
sexually abusive or of being sexually abused.
Screening involves reviewing prior history of
being sexually abused or possessing certain characteristics that increase the likelihood of being
abused, with the goal to separate those at high
risk of sexual victimization from those at high
risk of committing sexual assaults. Characteristics that are considered for one’s potential risk
for sexual assault while incarcerated include the
following: age, body height and weight, sexual
orientation, gender identity, history of previous
sexual abuse, previous incarceration, medical or
mental health problems, developmental disabilities, physical weaknesses, crime sophistication,
group affiliation, and passive tendencies or perceived vulnerability.3

TDCJ has a total of 152 staff members assigned
full time to Safe Prisons/PREA management
offices across the state. Of those, 142 are unitbased employees whose primary responsibility is
the management of the Safe Prisons/PREA operations, investigations, tracking, and analysis on
the unit level. There are six regional Safe Prisons/
PREA managers assigned to regional offices and
four full-time Safe Prisons/PREA management
office staff assigned to the central office.5

4

••

When prisoners report sexual assaults, PREA standards
require a quick, comprehensive response.
••
perpetrator. OIG staff also determine whether
medical staff will conduct a forensic medical exam
in order to document and collect evidence. 10

Investigations
When prisoners report sexual assaults, PREA
standards require a quick, comprehensive response. Agencies that conduct their own investigations of alleged sexual abuse or harassment
must conduct a prompt, thorough, and objective
investigation.6 PREA regulations require investigations whenever allegations are made, regardless
of whether the reports are made by a victim, a third
party, or anonymously. In addition, sexual assault
investigators must receive specialized training
on how to conduct sexual abuse investigations.7
PREA standards also set forth the requirements
for gathering evidence, conducting interviews,
assessing witness credibility, and conducting administrative and criminal investigations.8 In Texas, allegations of sexual abuse are reviewed by the
Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG
determines
whether the incident satisfies
the elements of
a felony Penal
Code offense. If
the OIG makes
such a determination, a thorough criminal investigation is conducted.9

Medical services personnel oversee any medical
examination performed in response to a sexual
assault complaint. Prisoners requiring medical
examinations are transported to outside facilities
for the administration of the sexual assault evidence kit. Information obtained from the victim
during the medical interview, evaluation, and examination is shared with OIG investigators.

Protection
According to PREA standards, administrators should not simply place victims in isolated
or segregated housing as a means of protecting them from harm.11 Voluminous research12
demonstrates that
solitary
confinement exacerbates
mental health conditions and, therefore, should not be
used with victims
of rape trauma. Solitary confinement, the punitive practice of removing a prisoner from general
population and placing them in a windowless,
individual cell for 23 hours a day, has been proven to pose great psychological risks, due to sense
deprivation, solitude, monotony, and lack of human
contact. These deprivations can cause panic attacks,

Voluminous research demonstrates that
solitary confinement exacerbates mental
health conditions and, therefore, should
not be used with victims of rape trauma.

Upon notification of a sexual assault complaint,
the OIG staff begins the investigation process
through the collecting of information in one-onone interviews with the complainant and alleged
5

depression, paranoia, and hallucinations in prisoners.13 For victims of the extreme trauma of rape, the
risks are even more dire. Thus, if there is no alternative
to placing a victim in segregated housing, very specific conditions must be met, including maintaining the
victim’s full access to prison programming and medical
and mental health services, and the housing classification must be reassessed frequently.14 PREA Standards 115.43 and 115.342 require documentation of instances in which a decision is made to
place someone in segregated housing.15

In theory, PREA is a positive step toward improving prison conditions with regard to sexual assault.
PREA standards are clear, and, if properly implemented, would reduce many instances of sexual
assault. In unfortunate cases where sexual assault does occur, the standards would make the
reporting process quicker and safer for victims.
However, despite a stated zero-tolerance policy16
on prison rape, PREA standards appear not to have
not been adequately implemented in Texas, and the
state’s rate of prison rape remains among the highest in the country.

THE PROBLEM
Sexual assaults remain a serious problem in the
Texas prison system. Inmate-on-inmate and
staff-on-inmate sexual assault rates in Texas prisons remain among the highest in the nation. A
2013 Department of Justice (DOJ) report found
that five Texas prisons had rates of sexual victimization more than double the national average
of 4.5%, including two facilities with the highest
rates in the country: the Estelle Unit at 15.7%
and the Clements Unit at 13.9%.17 According to
the report, between 9.3% and 15.7% of all prisoners in Texas prisons had reported being sexually assaulted within the previous twelve months.

country: the Montford Psychiatric Facility at
8.4%, the Stiles Unit at 7.8%, and the Clements
Unit at 6.8%.19 Particularly alarming is the rate of
inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization at facilities that house prisoners with a history of mental
health problems: almost half of the prisoners at
the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas are receiving inpatient or outpatient mental health care,
and the Montford Psychiatric Facility has sexual
victimization rates at more than double the national rate.20
Tragically, Texas facilities also rank high in staffon-inmate sexual assault rates: for example, the
Clements Unit (9.5%) and the Coffield Unit
(6.8%) have among the nation’s worst rates.21
The national average for staff-on-inmate sexual
victimization was 2.4%.22 In 2011-2012, 8.1%
(308) of prisoners at the male Clements Unit

TDCJ operates 25% of the nation’s correctional
facilities with the worst rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence.18 Texas also operates three
correctional facilities which have the highest
rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual assault in the
6

reported sexual victimization by staff involving
force or threat of force.23 The same report showed
that prisoners at the Clements Unit reported the
highest rate in the state of being coerced or pressured into sex (8.7%).24

in 2007.28 Since the 2011 Panel hearing, as evidenced by our independent correspondence
with prisoners, these disturbing trends at the
Allred Unit have not abated.
Sexual violence also persists more broadly
throughout the Texas prison system, according
to TDCJ data. In 2013, there were 1,041 inquiries of inmate-on-inmate alleged sexual abuse
incidents reported to the PREA Ombudsman by

Such dramatic deviations from typical rates of
sexual assault cannot be attributed to bad luck or
a particularly violent inmate population. Shedding light on the ineffectiveness of current prison rape policies, The Panel on Prison
Rape twice investigated the Allred Unit,
in Iowa Park, Texas, regarding its consistently high rates of sexual assault.25
Under PREA, the Panel is responsible
for holding public hearings using data collected
by the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
“to identify the common characteristics of (1)
sexual predators and victims, (2) correctional
institutions with a low prevalence of sexual victimization, and (3) correctional institutions with
a high prevalence of sexual victimization.”26 The
Panel found that the Allred Unit had not made
significant improvements since being identified
as a facility with
high incidences
of sexual victimization from the
time of the first
panel hearings in 2008 to the second hearing in
2011. The Panel was interested in learning why
the Allred Unit had not reduced rates of sexual
victimization, despite being alerted to problems
at a prior hearing appearance.27 During the hearing, the Panel produced data indicating abusive
sexual contact at the Allred Unit had more than
doubled since the release of the prior BJS report

Inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate
sexual assault rates in Texas prisons
remain among the highest in the nation.
the TDCJ.29 In 2014, the PREA Ombudsman Office received 1,467 inquiries regarding sexual abuse,
378 of which were referred to various departments
for processing.30 In a single year, the number of inquiries increased by 426 (more than 30%).
There is an obvious disconnect between PREA’s
regulatory goals and the reality of the failure to
significantly reduce sexual assault rates in Texas prisons. Both
specific incidents
and broad trends
illustrate the problem. For example,
PREA requires investigations by specially trained
personnel for all sexual assault allegations, whether thought to be founded or unfounded. Administrative decisions to disregard prisoners’ complaints are strictly prohibited. However, in Texas
prisons these standards simply are not being followed. From 2008 to 2009, BJS identified 66 investigations of inmate-on-inmate sexual assault at

TDCJ operates 25% of the nation’s
correctional facilities with the worst rates
of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence.

7

the Allred Unit, yet not a single charge was submitted for recommended prosecution.31 The Panel on
Prison Rape could not determine what happened
to the complainants or the alleged assailants, based
on the investigative files.32 Today, administrative
indifference, incompetence, and retaliation remain
common themes in our correspondence with inmates who have reported their sexual assaults. The
narratives included in the following section of this
report are representative of these problems.

throughout the TDCJ system, 41.2% of respondents identified as LGBTQ, and, of those, fully
100% said they believe they were assaulted because
of their sexual orientation. One survey respondent who was assaulted at the Estelle Unit was
threatened by a Major at the unit after he reported
a sexual assault. According to the respondent, the
Major asked, “How can a fag be raped?” and wrote
the respondent a disciplinary case for “consensual
sex.” The respondent described his plight succinctly: “I’m harassed every day by staff and inmates because I reported being raped. This is why so many
inmates on Estelle Unit refuse to report being sexually assaulted. They know they will be punished,
not treated as a victim.” [sic]

Texas also falls short of PREA requirements in its initial prisoner risk assessment during intake screening.
PREA standards require prisoners to be screened for
risk of being sexually abused or perpetrating sexual
abuse.33 This screening information is then used to
inform housing, cell, work, education, and program
assignments for prisoners.34 It has been established
that prisoners who identify as homosexual, bisexual,
or transgender are at greater risk for sexual assault victimization and harassment than inmates who identify
as heterosexual.35 As such, PREA includes express
guidelines to protect LGBTQ inmates. In its examination of the Allred Unit’s investigative files, the Panel on Prison Rape noted that there were a significant
number of complainants who self-identified as homosexual.36 The Panel also observed that during its visit
to the Allred Unit, staff members referred to homosexual prisoners as “queens.”37 Among those inmates
who identified as homosexual, 39% reported being
victimized by another prisoner—a higher rate than
heterosexual or bisexual prisoners (35% and 34%, respectively).38

After one inmate was raped in the shower by another prisoner, the victim attempted to report the
assault to unit-level staff. He requested to speak to
a staff member with the Safe Prisons Program, because of the specialized training those staff are supposed to receive, but he was told by a sergeant that,
“[I] only got what [I] asked for—being gay—and
that the other inmate should’ve kicked my ass.” The
complainant was told that the Safe Prisons staff did
not have time for such complaints and to stop causing trouble. Other prisoners who witnessed the assault in the shower sent statements to the Office of
Inspector General (OIG). OIG investigators eventually spoke to the victim, but not until 11 months
later, long after forensic evidence was gone and crucial details were forgotten.
In addition, PREA standards establish strict protocols for searches, especially when performed on
transgender people. Searches must always be conducted in the least intrusive manner possible, and

These cases are not isolated, confined to the worst
few facilities, or unrepresentative of current conditions. In our own surveys of prison rape victims
8

staff must be trained on how to be professional and
level concocted and retaliated against me with
respectful in conducting searches of transgender
high ranking officials, with false disciplinary caspeople. However, reports from transgender prisones to try and scare me, and they did!”[sic]
ers have indicated this particular standard is routinely
flouted in some Texas prisons. One prisoner, who
Another prisoner who was assaulted by a staff
has been formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria
member encountered retaliation from unit-level
and is currently taking female hormone treatments,
staff after reporting his assault. He shared, “They
has requested numerous times to be strip-searched
all pretended to listen until I told them it was
by female staff members. Each request has been deofficers/prison staff that sexually assaulted me.
nied and, instead, the inmate is subjected
Then I got the cold shoulder and was
to pat-downs and searches by male staff
sent back to my cell. Within minutes
members who sexually caress her breasts
the officers whom I named were at
of respondents identified as
during the procedure. She wrote, “When
my cell door angry that I told on them
LGBTQ, and, of those, fully
I complain to the Safe Prisons Program
and proceeded to threaten me and trash
100% said they believe they
and the Warden, they tell me that I am
my cell, turn my water off, and take my
were assaulted because of
a male on a male unit and I should enproperty for the next 2 ½ weeks. I kept
their sexual orientation.
joy the attention by the male staff.”[sic]
writing grievances and I-60s40 but got
Another prisoner at the same unit says, “The Safe
no relief from the continual sexual harassments,
Prisons staff use their positions more to punish and
threats, retaliation, denial of food and water, taunts,
harass victims than they do to help.”
and racial discrimination.”[sic]

41.2%

Texas’ rate of sexual abuse by staff members is particularly concerning. In 2014, 766 allegations of
staff-on-offender sexual abuse and sexual harassment incidents were reported to the PREA Ombudsman by unit-level TDCJ staff.39 Data before
this date does not appear to have been collected.
Approximately 59% of our 2016 survey respondents indicated they were sexually abused by correctional staff. Despite the seriousness of this statistic, reports of staff assault fail to be taken seriously
by TDCJ officials. According to one respondent,
“[The] administration took no concern in my outcry because it was a TDCJ official; OIG failed to investigate all the evidence and commented that high
ranking officials didn’t like the type of complaints
of sexual assaults; Safe Prison officials at the unit

Texas has a minimal felony charge for staff engaging in
sexual contact with prisoners who are in their custody,
which carries a maximum two-year prison sentence,
but it is rarely enforced. Since 2000, nearly 400 cases
of staff sex crimes against prisoners have been referred
to prosecutors by the state prison system’s inspector
general.41 Unfortunately, according to a Marshall Project report, prosecutors refused to pursue almost half
of those cases.42 Of the 126 staff members convicted
of sexual misconduct or assault, only nine were sentenced to serve time in a state jail.43 The majority received fines ranging from $200 to $4,000 and a few
years of probation, with the possibility of having
their criminal record expunged if certain conditions were met.44

9

NARRATIVES from inside
Examples of derelict or abusive treatment of prison rape victims in TDCJ facilities are tragically abundant.
The following narratives illustrate how many of the policy failures described in this report play out in the
individual lives of rape survivors in Texas prisons.

Narrative #1
John Doe 145 was repeatedly gang-raped by prison gangs while incarcerated at the Robertson, Allred, and
Hughes Units. The gangs targeted him because he was a former Texas Peace Officer, TDCJ corrections
officer, and self-identified bisexual man. After each assault, Doe 1 filed Step 1 and Step 2 grievances to alert
TDCJ staff of his victimization and request safekeeping status, because he identified as bisexual. Despite
his best efforts to follow TDCJ’s protocols to obtain safekeeping or protective custody, Doe 1 was instead
transferred from unit to unit and housed with the general population, where his sexual victimization continued. Instead of taking the
report by Doe 1 seriously,
TDCJ staff often mocked
him, with one sergeant
even calling him a “prison gang-bang whore.” It was not until a year later, when Doe 1 was brutally attacked
by a cellmate who inserted a razor blade into Doe 1’s anus, that TDCJ finally put him into safekeeping.

TDCJ staff often mocked him, with one sergeant
even calling him a “prison gang-bang whore.”

Narrative #2
John Doe 2 was sexually assaulted at the Estelle Unit located in
Huntsville, Texas. Doe 2, a gay man, filed several Step 1 and Step
2 grievances requesting protective custody or safekeeping after
being forced to perform oral sex on other prisoners who knew he
was gay and threatened to seriously harm him if he did not comply. After several incidences of sexual abuse, Doe 2 filed grievances
requesting help from the administration to protect him from his
attackers. After filing these grievances, he was physically assaulted
by a correctional officer in retaliation, resulting in a broken nose.
Although Doe 2 named his assailants, today he remains in general
10

population, where he continues to be physically and sexually assaulted. Doe 2 now feels suicidal because
he cannot escape the constant harassment and assaults, and his pleas for help from TDCJ’s administration
have gone unanswered.
••

Doe 4 was told by UCC staff, “There’s no reason why
Black punks can’t fight if they don’t want to fuck.”
••

Narrative #3
John Doe 3, a prisoner with an IQ of 77, which
should have immediately categorized him as a
sexual assault risk according to PREA risk-assessment standards, was sexually assaulted at
the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, Texas. Doe 3 requested a medical examination by a medical
professional and asked that a forensic sample be
taken. Instead, the examination consisted only
of an eye exam. PREA standards require investigators to gather and preserve direct and circumstantial evidence, including any available physical and DNA evidence.46 When Doe 3 requested
that surveillance video evidence be examined
to confirm his claim, he was told that the camera was not working at the time of his assault.
Despite that claim, one officer at the unit sent a
letter to the PREA Ombudsman’s office expressing concern that the investigation team had not bothered
to watch the surveillance video footage. In the end, Doe 3 was told that his only option was to move to a
different cellblock. In a desperate attempt to avoid future sexual assaults, Doe 3 wrote a letter to the mental health department threatening
escape in hopes that he would be
moved to administrative segregation (i.e., solitary confinement).

Staff not only refused to investigate but told
him they “hope he gets raped and killed."

11

Narrative #4
John Doe 4, a prisoner at the Robertson Unit in Abilene, Texas, was sexually assaulted dozens of times
over an 18-month period before being sold into sexual slavery by various violent prison gangs for $5. Doe
4 had alerted staff during the intake process that he identified as homosexual. He also exhausted TDCJ’s
grievance protocol, explaining
the brutal sexual and physical
abuse he faced on an almost daily basis. During his appearance
before the Unit Classification
Committee for a safekeeping request, Doe 4 was told by UCC
staff, “There’s no reason why Black punks can’t fight if they don’t want to fuck.” Doe 4 was subsequently
moved into administrative segregation, where he remains today, four years later. As explained earlier in this
report, placing an inmate in solitary confinement for ostensible protective reasons is in violation of PREA
standards, except when alternative means of separation have been exhausted, and other strict procedures
are followed. No alternative protective measures were considered for Doe 4, even though placing him in
protective custody or safekeeping status would have offered him protection from gangs and continuing
sexual abuse, as well as the trauma-exacerbating effects of an extended duration in isolation. Further, after
four years in solitary confinement TDCJ still has not reevaluated Doe 4’s administrative segregation, despite
frequent requests from him to do so and despite PREA’s express requirement that any housing segregation of a
prison rape victim be periodically reevaluated.

He also reported his assault to the unit
warden, who did not take his claim seriously,
laughed at him, and stated they did not have
the resources to investigate the assault.

Narrative #5
John Doe 5, who identifies as gay and is
housed at the Allred Unit, first experienced
threats from gang members who demanded
money and sexual acts. He has since experienced several physical assaults. After submitting a Step 1 grievance after being assaulted,
staff not only refused to investigate but told
him they “hope he gets raped and killed.” In
addition, the Safe Prisons Staff at the Allred
Unit have told other prisoners and staff that
Doe 5 is a homosexual and that they can have

12

access to him to rape or physically assault him. Doe 5 continues to plead unsuccessfully with officials to
put him in safekeeping custody.

Narrative #6
John Doe 6 is incarcerated at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. He was sexually assaulted by his
cellmate and immediately submitted multiple reports regarding the incident. Doe 6 has feelings of shame,
embarrassment, and struggles with suicidal thoughts. Although he attempted to contact medical staff immediately after the assault, medical staff did not respond until 72 hours later. He also reported his assault to the
unit warden, who did not take his claim seriously, laughed at him, and stated they did not have the resources to
investigate the assault. The warden also denied his request for a medical forensic exam and contact information
for a local rape crisis center. Doe 6 also wrote to the PREA Ombudsman’s Office, but his only response was a
letter stating that his claims were unsubstantiated and that the investigation was closed.

Narrative #7
John Doe 7, who identifies as disabled, was sexually assaulted by his cellmate while at the Huntsville Unit
in Huntsville, TX. Doe 7 says that he was not properly screened during intake in light of his vulnerability
and was housed with someone who had an assaultive history. He reported the assault, and the OIG conducted an investigation. Despite finding evidence substantiating the assault, no criminal charges were filed
against his attacker. Instead, Doe 7 was transferred to a different prison unit, where he continues to endure
threats of sexual violence because of his physical impairment.

Narrative #8
Jane Doe 8, who identifies as a transgender woman, is currently at the Allred Unit. She wrote to TAASA explaining that the Allred Unit is grossly abusing transgender individuals and violating PREA standards related to rape investigations. Doe 8 says that the Allred Unit does not care for transgender individuals and “botches
and misdirects” any investigations into their mistreatment. In 2014, she and other transgender prisoners on the
unit filed more than 70 PREA complaints to the PREA Ombudsman Office. Subsequently, Doe 8 was removed
from her safekeeping classification and placed in administrative segregation. While in isolation, she has been
denied access to health services, including her medication to treat her gender dysphoria.

13

RECOMMENDATIONS
Unfortunately, there are many other Texas prisoners with tragic sexual assault survivor stories that could
have been avoided had PREA standards been properly implemented and enforced. Many of the clear violations of DOJ’s PREA regulations that prisoners describe to us every day are avoidable. The disconnect
between what PREA requires and what is happening in Texas prisons must be thoroughly investigated and
resolved immediately. In addition to full implementation of current PREA standards, we urge TDCJ to
adopt the following recommendations:

1) Establish independent oversight to evaluate TDCJ facilities’ compliance with
PREA standards. The TDCJ should be held accountable if it deviates from PREA standards without justification. This recommendation has proven successful for some facilities already:
The Panel on Prison Rape investigated both the FCI Elkton and Bridgeport facilities and identified policies that
each of these facilities had implemented that mitigated rate of sexual victimization. FCI Elkton’s success at reducing the rate of sexual victimization was attributed to a system in which the staff are expected to report incidents of
staff sexual misconduct directly to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which
then refers the matter to the Federal Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) independent Office of Internal Affairs.47 The OIG
also has a hotline available to the public and BOP inmates for reporting the sexual misconduct of BOP staff.48
Further, the BOP not only has PREA coordinators at the facility level, but it also has PREA coordinators at the
regional and central-office levels to oversee the work of the facility coordinator.49 These procedures encourage
reporting and reduce the risk of retaliation against victims. Likewise, the Bridgeport Pre-Parole Facility, a minimum-security female facility located in Bridgeport, Texas has designed its own, similar oversight system. Bridgeport is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under a contract with the TDCJ. The CCA
has appointed a corporate PREA committee, which convenes by conference call within 48 hours each time a
sexual abuse allegation is received to discuss the incident and to ensure that the facility is adhering to CCA’s
PREA policy.50 The CCA’s protocol and administrative structure at Bridgeport ensures that every allegation of
sexual victimization is treated as credible and is investigated in accordance with PREA standards.

2) Immediately halt the practice of placing sexual assault victims in solitary confinement without thoroughly exhausting alternative protective measures. In rare cases in
which administrative segregation is the only option, housing assignments should be reviewed every 15 days or
less, and the prisoner should have meaningful access to mental health treatment, counseling, and all other programming he or she would have access to in general population.

14

3) Increase resources for the PREA Ombudsman Office. There are currently only one PREA Ombudsman and one assistant despite the nearly 150,000 prisoners housed in TDCJ facilities.51 Corrections staffing levels
should be increased in the living areas during the times when most sexual assaults are reported, between 6 a.m. and 6
p.m.52 Although the number of staff assigned to the units is greatest during these hours, the activity levels of the prisoners also increases dramatically.53 As a result, housing unit staff are frequently drawn away from the routine duty of
checking on cell activity.54 Providing more resources to the PREA Ombudsman’s Office would help alleviate the burden on unit-level staff and raise the level of specialized victim services to victims throughout the system.

4) Improve the Offender Grievance System. An effective policy to prevent and respond to sexual assault must include a functional grievance system. Staff at all levels of the grievance process require better
training on PREA standards and should be held accountable for failing to respond to victims properly. To deter
staff-on-inmate sexual assault, complaints must always precipitate prompt and thorough investigations, and substantiated complaints must result in strict administrative and criminal enforcement.

5) Involve outside agencies in assessing PREA compliance. Advocates and experts can provide technical assistance on assisting sexual assault victims, and gather longitudinal data that would not only help
alleviate the burden on correctional staff and administrators, but would also promote transparency and public
accountability. Since 2010, TAASA has provided a reporting outlet for currently incarcerated prisoners—still
one of the only Texas-based organizations to do so. Further, with a newly established incarcerated survivor team,
TAASA is equipped to perform ample research directly with prisoners and support service providers and to
monitor statewide trends. Educating inmates on TAASA’s mission and contact information would help connect
victims in TDCJ with necessary resources and ease the burden on an often overworked correctional staff.

CONCLUSION
In the 13 years since PREA’s enactment and the six years since the publication of DOJ’s final PREA rule,
Texas has failed to stem sexual violence within its prisons. Although PREA was enacted on the strength
of exhaustive research and unprecedented bipartisan support, it has fallen short of achieving material improvement in Texas’s rates of prison rape. Sexual assault rates—and attendant rates of medical and mental
health problems, suicide rates, and targeted harassment and retaliation—increase each year. The situation
is urgent. Drastic changes need to take place within the Texas prison system immediately. We believe that
tremendous change can happen without substantial cost, legislation, or additional federal rulemaking. We
hope this report helps to illuminate the crisis many inmates face daily in Texas correctional facilities and
prompts officials to act decisively.
15

Sources
1

28 C.F.R. § 115.15.

42 U.S.C. 15607(c); see also “Safe Prisons Program Report
2013,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 19 (2013),
available at http://tdcj.state.tx.us/documents/PREA_SPP_
Report_2013.pdf.
2

19

Id.

20

Id.

21

Id. at 13.

22

Id. at 6.

23

Id. at 14.

24

Id.

“Report on Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails,” Review Panel on Prison Rape, U.S. Department of Justice, 4
(2012), available at http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/sites/
default/files/library/preafinalreport2012.pdf.
25

“PREA Essentials: Screening for Risk of Sexual Victimization and Abusiveness.” National PREA Resource Center,
Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice.
(2015), available at http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/
training-technical-assistance/prea-essentials.
3

26

Id. at 4.

27

Id.

See “PREA Brochure,” PREA Ombudsman Office, Texas
Department of Criminal Justice, available at https://www.
tdcj.state.tx.us/documents/TBCJ_PREA_Brochure.pdf.

28

Id. at 36-37.

29

Safe Prisons Program Report 2013, supra note 2, at 21.

“Safe Prisons Program Report 2014,” Texas Department of
Criminal Justice (2014), available at http://tdcj.state.tx.us/
documents/PREA_SPP_Report_2014.pdf.

30

Safe Prisons Program Report 2014, supra note 5, at 23.

4

5

Report on Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails, supra
note 25, at 31.
31

6

Id. at 29-31.

7

Id.

32

Id.

8

Id.

33

28 C.F.R. § 115.41.

9

Id.

34

10

Id.

11

28 C.F.R. § 115.342(b).

28 C.F.R. § 115.42; see also “PREA Essentials: Screening
for Risk of Sexual Victimization and Abusiveness.” National
PREA Resource Center. Bureau of Justice Assistance: US Department of Justice (2015), available at http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/training-technical-assistance/prea-essentials.

See Jeffrey L. Metzner & Jamie Fellner, Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge
for Medical Ethics, 38 J. Am. Aacad. Psychiatry & l. 104,
105 (Nov. 2010), available at http://www.jaapl.org/content/38/1/104.full.pdf; Craig Haney, Mental Health issues in
Long-term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement, 49 Crime
& Delinquency 124, 142 (Jan. 2003), available at http://www.
supermaxed.com/NewSupermaxMaterials/Haney-MentalHealthIssues.pdf.
12

Jason Lydon, “Coming Out of Concrete Closets: A Report on Black & Pink’s National LGBTQ Prisoner Survey,”
5 (October 2015), available at http://www.blackandpink.org/
wp-content/upLoads/Coming-Out-of-Concrete-Closets.Black-and-Pink.-October-21-2015..pdf.
35

Report on Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails, supra
note 25, at 32.
36

See, e.g., “Psychologist Testifies on the Risks of Solitary
Confinement.” American Psychological Association (2012),
available at http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/10/solitary.
aspx.

37

13

14

28 C.F.R. § 115.43.

15

28 C.F.R. §§ 115.43(d).

16

Beck, et al. “Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates,” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 5 (2007).
38

39

Safe Prisons Program Report 2014, supra note 5, at 24.

An I-60 form is TDCJ’s official avenue for inmates to submit requests to officials about a wide range of issues. See
“Offender Orientation Handbook,” Texas Department of
Criminal Justice, 70 (April 2016), available at http://www.
tdcj.state.tx.us/documents/Offender_Orientation_Handbook_English.pdf.
40

PREA Brochure, supra note 2.

Beck, Allen, Berkzofky, Marcus, Caspar, Rachel, and Krebs,
Christopher. “Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12.” U.S. Department of Justice:
Bureau of Justice Statistics (2013).
17

18

Id. at 35.

Alysia Santo, “Preying on Prisoners,” The Marshall
Project, June 17, 2015, available at https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/06/17/preying-on-prisoners?utm_
41

Id. at 12.

16

campaign=communications&utm_source=txcomm&utm_
medium=email&utm_term=prison-prosecutions.
42

Id.

43

Id.

44

Id.

We have chosen not to name survivors and staff members
in this report in order to protect their safety and privacy.
45

46

28 C.F.R. §§ 115.64, 115.71.

Report on Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails, supra
note 25, at 8.
47

48

Id.

49

Id. at 11.

50

Id. at 13.

See “Texas Prison Inmates,” Data Applications, The Texas
Tribune, available at http://www.texastribune.org/library/
data/texas-prisons.
51

Austin, et al. “Sexual Violence in the Texas Prison System.”
U.S. Department of Justice, VI.
52

53

Id.

54

Id.

17

taasa

TEXAS ASSOCIATION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

6200 La Calma, Suite 110
Austin, TX 78752
512.474.7190

 

 

Prisoner Education Guide side
Advertise Here 4th Ad
Prison Phone Justice Campaign