As May 15 Deadline Looms, Lambda Legal Urges Texas Governor to Comply With Prison Rape Elimination Act

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May 1, 2015
A self-portrait of Passion Star

With exactly two weeks remaining until the U.S. Justice Department’s May 15 deadline for the governors of all 50 states to confirm that their state is in compliance with the national standards set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), Lambda Legal urges Texas Governor Greg Abbott to adopt the PREA standards unconditionally and acknowledge that rape and sexual assault can no longer be accepted as part of the sentence served for any crime.

Learn more about our campaign to stop prison rape in Texas, and sign the petition.

Texas stands to lose funds from the Department of Justice earmarked for the prevention of prison rape if, by May 15, Governor Abbot does not confirm either that Texas is in compliance with the PREA standards, or will use the funds to work towards compliance. In 2014, former Texas Governor Rick Perry stated that Texas would neither comply with PREA’s standards nor work towards PREA compliance. Lambda Legal has been committed to educating people across Texas and the country about this issue and has been collecting signatures on a petition directed at Governor Abbott.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist Jael Humphrey issued the following statement:

“Presently, Texas is among the states leading the nation in rates of reported rapes in its prisons. Governor Abbott needs to fix this immediately and implement PREA. Experts across the country recognize that sexual violence in custody disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. LGBT people in Texas prisons, like Lambda Legal client Passion Star, face higher risk of sexual assault and exploitation as part of their prison sentences.

“No one should have to endure rape as a condition of their sentence. May 15, the national deadline to certify PREA compliance, should be seen as an opportunity for Texas to step up and do the right thing.”

In October 2014, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Passion Star, a transgender Black woman currently incarcerated in a men’s prison in Texas. Since entering Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) custody in 2002, Passion has been raped and beaten, including a razor attack when her face was slashed multiple times by a man who told her that he “owned” her. After years of abuse, TDCJ officials agreed to place Passion in safekeeping in March 2015, only after Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion for her protection.

As Passion Star wrote from prison when Lambda Legal filed its lawsuit: “Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place here in Texas prisons. TDCJ officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people’s safety…. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege; it’s a right.”

The petition drive – The Campaign to Stop Prison Rape in Texas – is expected to deliver close to 10,000 signatures to Governor Abbott in the coming weeks.

Read the press release.