Prison Rape Elimination Act vs. Dept. of Criminal Justice

The Place–Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Huntsville, Texas. The Victim (Vic)–a deaf/physically handicapped/ safe keep prisoner. Safe Keep (SK)-are prisoners of a “Protected Class”/at “High Risk” the Vic wears diapers for bowel and bladder incontinence, a fact known to fellow prisoners due to TDCJ’s practice of “Strip-Harass-Humiliate” and because he is forced to shower with others, despite sanitary and safety issues. Propaganda refers to SK as “The Gay Wing” and SK Prisoners in a derogatory or even sexual manner, making the Risk that much higher. The Wing has 126 beds, and is usually at 95% capacity with prisoners.

In May 2012, the Vic, along with about 30 other SK prisoners, went to the chowhall for the evening meal (about 4:20 PM). Officers then placed a number of General Population (GP) wings, including Medium Custody, right behind SK. The maximum capacity of the South chowhall is 234 people, so by 5PM all tables were full. Both serving lines were backed up to the closed and locked doors and about 125 Prisoners, including SK, were staged (standing) in a small area by the locked exit doors waiting for Egress (see Texas Barriers Act).

Two GP Prisoners attacked the Vic from behind and began to physically and sexually assault him. They pulled down his pants and tore off his diaper; pushed their fingers in his rectum; masturbated him while trying to kiss him; slapped his testicles and buttocks; pulled on his penis and scrotum. This went on for some 20 minutes before the doors were open and Egress was allowed. The Vic, with his pants still around his ankles, was knocked to the floor and trampled by the rushing crowd to the laughter of guards.

The Officers on duty did not attempt to stop the Assault, nor did they file the required reports, which would have identified the assailants and witnesses. A Ranking Officer at the Central Desk refused to communicate with the Vic because he is deaf. They instead used a standard TDCJ threat in a direct order to “Go to your wing or go to Lock Up and get a disciplinary case!” This also eliminated the mandatory medical evaluation and documentation. Furthermore, all correspondence (to Wardens, Major, Building Captain, Psych, Safe Prisoners Coordinator, Risk Management, PREA Ombudsman) went without reply and the first step of the grievance simply disappeared.

TDCJ has a legal responsibility to protect all prisoners, with special regard to all in Safe Keep. They have a duty to respond to crimes committed in their institution. Yet they purposely prevented the Vic from reporting and documenting this physical and Sexual Assault; then left him to suffer harassment and humiliation by staff and other Prisoners and to live in fear for the next assault.

This is but one of many offenses regularly covered by the Texas Prison System. The Administrators–by inaction and denial–sanction Rape, Extortion, Physical and Sexual Assault. Where the PREA states a zero tolerance for sexual assault; TDCJ has enacted a zero tolerance for sex. There is a big difference between sex and rape. TDCJ policy is clearly a statement against Homosexuality. Rape and extortion are crimes committed by the deprived or those who feel shame for their desires and forcibly take what they want from those who are weaker–At High Risk. Suggesting all forms of passive sexual release–masturbation, porn, etc.–are some sort of crime is a bit like prohibition and has the same affect. Rape, extortion, physical and sexual assault have been against the Law, even in prison, long before the words of the Prison Rape Elimination Act; yet homosexuality is not against the law.

Most people may not have realized the severity of these crimes in prison, but wardens and guards had to know. But to acknowledge the scope of this problem now is to admit incompetence or that they allowed it. This is why the PREA has no real power to stop prison rape in TDCJ. The PREA Ombudsman, Safe Prisons Coordinator, and Grievance Officers work for TDCJ. As yet there are no cameras on this building, the chowhalls, or Safe keep. There is no outside watchdog agency. The day TDCJ officials are held criminally responsible is the day we begin to stop prison rape.