Saturday, April 5, 2014

Perry's Stance to Prison Rape (PREA) Doesn't Pass the New York Times Stink Test

By Lance Lowry
Editorial Comment
Today the New York Times weighed in on Rick Perry's stance to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), it didn't pass the stink test.  The Times Editorial Board published an article in today's printed addition entitled Grandstanding of Prisons in Texas.      

In the editorial the New York Times editorial board noted:

"Mr. Perry’s complaints about the rules are without merit, but the governor wants to show that he’s opposed to federal oversight of any sort. Unfortunately, his cynical stance could prompt state corrections officials to ignore policies that protect inmates from sexual predation. The consequences could be terrible since the Texas system is replete with the sexual violence that prompted Congress to pass this law. 
Mr. Perry announced his intention to flout the law in a March 28 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. He implied that Texas had its own rape-prevention measures and did not need federal oversight. Federal data consistently tell a different story. A 2013 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that Texas had more prison facilities with high rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence than any other state. 
There are several rules that seem to particularly irk Mr. Perry. One requires states to periodically audit rape prevention programs. Another requires them to certify that their prisons are in compliance. Mr. Perry complains that he couldn’t possibly certify compliance because he can’t audit all of the facilities covered by the law at once. However, the rules make clear that only one-third of the covered facilities need to be audited each year." 1
See the full editorial at: The New York Times
Now we agree with some previsions of the PREA law, but not all of them.  The fact is we are a society of laws.  Disliking a law is one thing, but breaking it is another.  The reason we have prisons is for people who break the law. 
Rick Perry should not place the agency or its staff at risk of liability by choosing not to follow Federal Law. 
In an editorial published yesterday in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, civil rights attorney Brian McGiverin states:
Clearly, Texas’ home-grown policies have failed.
Part of the problem stems from underfunding. In 1978, Texas prisons held 24,575 inmates; now they hold more than 152,000.
The increase was largely due to the Legislature’s appetite for creating new, low-level felonies. Half the people who go to prison today are sentenced to two years or less.
The overwhelming majority of all new prisoners were convicted of nonviolent property or drug offenses.
But the budget has not kept up with the population.  One result has been low salaries for correctional officers — starting at $27,000 and capped at $37,000 — so staffing continually suffers significant shortages and turnover.
That leaves fewer and less experienced officers to provide security, which makes everyone less safe. 2
See McGiverin's editorial in: The Fort Worth Star Telegram 
If Governor Perry truly wished to help the correctional staff and inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he should have supported a 20% pay raise for correctional officers.  All other state law enforcement were given a 20 percent raise last session.  With the Texas Department of Criminal Justice several thousand officers short, the legislature and Governor Perry gave TDCJ officers a 5 percent pay raise spread over 2 years. 
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is plagued with several thousand vacancies and some units are only staff with half the required officers.  Rick Perry's grandstanding should have been to properly staff the prisons with professionals.  As usual he continues to ignore the problem and divert attention to the Federal Government. 

If Rick Perry wants to grandstand to unneeded bureaucracy he should first look at the voluntary membership of Texas prisons in the American Correctional Association (ACA).  ACA membership has yet to prevent liability and has created unneeded red tape.  Failing to comply with PREA will create liability in a system already willing to generate unnecessary bureaucracy. 


  1. The Correctional Officers Should Have been Given The 20% Raise Also. They Face as Much Danger As The Police Officers And Their Lives Are At A High Risk Because They Deal With Murderers, Rapist, Child Molesters, Drug Addicts And Every Thing That You Would Not Want To Run Into on Our Streets In The free World. By The Thousands EVERYDAY With No Weapons And Are Expected to Protect Them As Well as Their Fellow Officers. They Risk Their lives Daily And Never Know Whether They Will Be Going Home At The End Of the Day after Entering The Prisons. I Worked In The System For 12 1/2 Years And They deserve Top Pay As Any Law Enforcement officer. May God Protect And Watch Over he Ones That Still Walk The Walk Everyday To Keep These Thugs off The Streets!

  2. They are NOT Law Enforcement officers, They have had NO Training like a Police Officer has, Most dont have any Education. Have you ever heard of 1 person failing the test to be a guard at TDCJ? No, they all pass, 400 lb men that stand 5 ft tall pass, 100 lb 70 yr old women, Pass, 1 Arm 1 eye, you Pass, 1 leg in a wheel chair, you Pass, What I am trying to say is TDCJ has Low or no standards to be a Guard. So dont ever say, Law Enforcement officers, Because your not, you have NO power outside the Gates. NONE. Like a Real Police Officer has