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Abbott To U.S. AG: Texas Will Comply With Federal Prison Rape Act

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Source: U.S. Geological Survey
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In stark contrast to former Gov. Rick Perry, the current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has told U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that the state would comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

In a letter to Lynch earlier this month, Abbott stated that Texas would “fully implement” the standards as much as possible. In the letter of May 15, Abbott wrote: “The State of Texas has taken significant steps to eliminate prison rape. I cannot yet certify that the State is in full compliance with Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) because our PREA audits are still ongoing. But every facility that has completed the PREA audit process has been certified as fully compliant. And I can assure you that we will fully implement DOJ’s PREA standards wherever feasible.”

The PREA requires segregating younger inmates from those who are over 18. Perry refused to comply, basically because 17-year-old criminal offenders in Texas are classified as adults. Federal law requires 17-year-olds to be housed separately from those 18 or older.

Abbott’s letter stated that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had three units that housed 17-year-olds with older offenders: Clemens and Travis (males), and Hilltop (females). The letter stated that at the end of March 2015, TDCJ had 52 youthful male inmates and seven youthful female inmates in those three units. “While TDCJ is confident that it has taken adequate measures to segregate those youthful offenders in accordance with DOJ’s PREA standards, we will not know for sure until next year. That is because the audits for Clemens, Hilltop, and Travis will not be completed before February 2016, September 2016, and October 2016, respectively,” the letter stated.

Out of Texas’ 110 prisons and jails, 94 are owned and operated by the TDCJ, 15 are TDCJ owned but privately run, and one is privately owned and run. Audits have been completely on only 32 so far.

Texas lost $800,000 in federal funding for noncompliance last year. Bills that would have changed the age failed to pass the Texas Legislature this session.

Abbott said he expected the three state-run facilities for 17-year-old inmates to meet federal requirements next year. Local county jails are also required to be in compliance.