Seek And You Shall Find
Austin, Texas - In a letter obtained through an Open Records Act request by Austin criminal justice researcher / blogger Scott Henson, the Moss Group, which consulted with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on prison rape, contradicts Governor Rick Perry's notion the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) certification is "impossible" as stated in a letter the governor sent to the Justice Department on March 28th.
According to the Moss Group's report:
"The department and unit staff appeared receptive to the recommendations offered and seemed confident that the solutions proposed were reasonable and viable."
Even though the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) does not come with any enforcement guidelines, aside from a five percent loss in Federal grants to the program, by not complying with the act the state is opening it's staff and itself up to liability claims by showing deliberate indifference, as found in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case Farmer v Brennam.
The Moss Group report called for partial privacy dividers in shower areas and toilet areas of the prisons. These dividers are already in place in prisons that house female inmates. According to the AFSCME Texas Correctional Employees Huntsville Local President Lance Lowry, "the majority of prison female staff have made it clear they do not wish to view male inmate's genitalia. By failing to install partial dividers in shower areas and strip search areas, Texas prisons are opening female staff to unnecessary liability claims such as voyeurism."
Lowry states "the Texas Department of Criminal Justice may face EEOC discrimination claims from female staff for sexual harassment, as male officers working on prison units housing female inmates are not forced to view genitalia. Forcing female staff to perform strip searches or view male genitalia may violate Federal employment laws, when male officers are receiving differential treatment on prisons that house female prisoners. Female officers clearly receive a great deal of sexual harassment on the job."
Governor Perry claims that abiding by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) will result in the state having to discriminate against females is "nonsense" according to Lowry. Lowry states "the most prevalent form of employment discrimination is low pay and a disproportionate promotional system."
Lowry is quick to point out that while the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has the largest number of female officers compared to other state law enforcement, but were not included in the 20 percent pay increase given last session to their male dominated counterparts in other state criminal justice agencies. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officers only received 5 percent over a two year period, despite having several thousand vacancies and having a large number of female officers compared to other state criminal justice agencies.
Lowry states, "if Governor Perry wishes to look out for the interest of female correctional officers, he would have supported an equal pay raise for all state criminal justice officers and also signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into state law, instead of vetoing the bill." The Lilly Ledbetter Act would have required employers to pay females equal pay for performing the same work assignment as their male counterparts.