Texas Gov. Perry Refuses to Comply with Federal Prison Rape Elimination Law
Citing numerous concerns with the nation’s first attempt through legislation to curb rapes in prisons, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has informed Washington that he won’t comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
Perry’s decision has puzzled some observers, considering the 2003 law was approved by President George W. Bush, whom Perry replaced as governor. Although PREA was signed 11 years ago, it took the federal government nearly a decade to implement the act.
For starters, Perry claims the law prohibits “most cross-gender viewing,” which he insists will lead to the loss of employment opportunities for female prison guards. He also complains that suggestions by the National PREA Resource Center to remove security cameras and obstructing lines of sight are “ridiculous” and would pose a security risk and increase the danger of assaults inside prisons.
The GOP governor also says PREA “infringes on Texas’ right to establish the state’s own age of criminal responsibility,” which currently is 17. He implies the law would force the state to increase the age to 18, or force the separation of 17-year-old inmates from all others “at substantial cost with no discernible benefit to the state or its inmates.” At this time, Texas legislators are considering whether to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18.
Another irritation for Perry is PREA’s rule mandating “specific staffing ratios for juvenile detention facilities.” He says it is unreasonable for states to abide by this mandate because it would prove costly and not necessarily effective.
“Washington has taken an opportunity to help address a problem in our prisons and jails, but instead created a counterproductive and unnecessarily cumbersome and costly regulatory mess for the states,” Perry wrote in his letter. Perry claims 297 facilities in his state would be subject to PREA, but a count by the blog Grits for Breakfast shows far fewer than half that number in Texas.
“I encourage the administration to change these standards and do so soon. Absent standards that acknowledge the operational realities in our prisons and jails, I will not sign your form and I will encourage my fellow governors to follow suit. In the meantime, Texas will continue the programs it has already implemented to reduce prison rapes.”
To Learn More:
Perry: Texas Won't Comply with Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (by Scott Henson, Grits for Breakfast)
Letter to Eric Holder (Governor Rick Perry)
‘Against the Grain’ of Justice (by Jordan Smith, Austin Chronicle)
Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (Wikipedia)
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