Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has told the Department of Justice that he has ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice not to abide by federal rules that were designed to prevent prison rapes.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last week, Perry explained that Texas could not afford to implement parts of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2003.
“Washington has taken an opportunity to help address a problem in our prisons and jails, but instead created a counterproductive and unnecessarily cumbersome regulatory mess for the states,” Perry wrote in the letter. “Absent standards that acknowledge the operational realities of our prisons and jails, I will not sign your form (certifying compliance with the act) and I will encourage my fellow governors to follow suit.”
Perry argued that because 40 percent of the correctional officers in male prisons were female, it would be impossible to comply with rules that prevented “cross-gender viewing” of inmates.
The governor also complained that the law “infringes on Texas’ right to establish the state’s own age of criminal responsibility” by mandating that inmates 17 years old and younger be separated from adults. And he said “specific staffing ratios for juvenile detention facilities” were unreasonably high.
“I encourage the administration to change these standards and do so soon,” Perry concluded. “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.”
The San Antonio Express-News noted that the failure to follow federal law could result in criminal penalties, but federal officials have said Perry would not be charged with a crime. Officials from the Justice Department were expecting to meet with Texas officials to discuss the problem instead.
In a Texas Department of Criminal Justice training video for the Prison Rape Elimination Act that was leaked last year, a prison official explains that “offender on offender, or staff on offender abuse allows predatory offenders to grow strong at our expense. As they become powerful, our strength as a security force declines.”
Watch the video below from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, uploaded to YouTube.
[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore]