Prison Rape in Texas: Analyzing PREA

In 2003, the Bush Administration signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA, P. L. 108-79), the purpose of which is to address the increasing problem of sexual abuse within U. S. correctional facilities. The Act is applicable to all public and private institutions as well as community-based agencies housing adults or juveniles. In accordance with PREA protections, the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently released national standards; under this Act, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is expected to conduct a comprehensive annual assessment and statistical review of the incidence and effects of prison rape (DOJ, 2012).

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Research by the BJS as well as external sources reveals that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has emerged as the national leader in prison rape violence, with Texas facilities accounting for five of the top ten U. S. prisons with the highest prevalence rates of inmate-reported sexual assault, including the top two worst rankings: the Estelle Unit and the Clements unit (Simons & Gavin, 2012).

TDJC operates the country’s third largest prison system with over 150,000 prisons, with annual rape incident reports numbering between 500 and 600 reports, with 86% of these occurring in large male facilities (Austin et al. 2006). The proposed research analysis will examine the problem of inmate and guard rape within Texas, emphasizing the W. J. “Jim” Estelle Unit, located in Huntsville, Texas. The facility has a maximum capacity of 3,148 inmates and employs 762 security personnel. The Estelle Unit had a 15. 7% sexual abuse rate according to the BJS number; one of the biggest myths is that sexual violence is an unavoidable part of the prison lifestyle (Kaiser & Stannow, 2010).

Policies and practices can be implemented to prevent, deter, and treat victims of prison sexual violence; however, the scope of this issue is far reaching as both inmates and employees are potential and proven abusers. Furthermore, this analysis will look at the statistics of prison rape as a means of architecting policies that actualize the organizational change needed to secure these prisoners with the appropriate mechanisms and measures to facilitate this objective.

It is important to consider that reported prisoner violence reflects a small fraction of the larger issue. The Just Detention International (JDI) prison watch dog group reports states that it receives 20 letters per week claiming sexual violence, with a quarter of these coming from Texas, a state that surpasses the national average of 4. 5% with its worst facilities ranging between 9. 3% and 15. 7% (Medlock & Cole, 2010).

However, with greater reporting mechanisms utilized by the National Former Prison Survey, the average has risen: “An estimated 9. % of former state prisoners reported one or more incidents of sexual victimization during the most recent period of incarceration in a jail, prison, and post-release community-treatment facility” (BJS, 2012, p. 1). This issue is not isolated in the prison. Medlock and Cole (2010) argue that 33% are in state custody for non-violent offenses and that 90% of these prisoners are eventually released; as such, these victims may become a public safety issue due to the trauma suffered behind bars.

Medlock and Cole (2010) also find that BJS statistics placed Texas at the top of the highest reports of guard rapes of inmates. This horrifying pairing evidences a prison culture that expects, supports, and hides rape as a conditional aspect of imprisonment. The Texas system has arguably institutionalized a prison rape culture rooted in sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. This report will detail the historical and current statistics of prison rape in Texas and in the Estelle Unit in particular.

Evidence will be supplied as to the profiles of the perpetrators and the victim populations. With this knowledge, the analysis will then shift to a comprehensive analysis of PREA legislation in reforming these pervasive human rights abuses. Cases, including that of Roderick Johnson, an inmate who was forced into sexual slavery and denied repeated requests for assistance by prison officials, will be used to tie this issue to the reality of the human tragedy occurring behind bars.

The proposed research will provide an empirical background that will serve as a lens for examining the progression of the TDJC system as well as national efforts to intervene and correct this problem. The paper will argue that a comprehensive, multidimensional approach is needed to effectively mitigate risks on a level organizational culture, asserting that the leadership and oversight personnel largely determine the eradication of this violence.

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