Five of the 10 prisons with the highest rates of sexual abuse in the nation are in Texas, including the top two, The Houston Chronicle reports today. But what the Chronicle’s story doesn’t even bother to mention is that LGBTQ inmates are a chief target of prison sexual abuse. According to the watchdog group Justice Detention International, a 2007 study found that “67 percent of inmates who identified as LGBTQ reported having been sexually assaulted by another inmate during their incarceration, a rate that was 15 times higher than for the inmate population overall. Of the hundreds of survivors who contact JDI every year, approximately 20 percent self- identifiy as gay, bisexual or transgender.”
A JDI report from 2008 sheds further light on the factors behind this problem in Texas:
“Within TDCJ facilities, vulnerable inmates report being set up for sexual violence by staff who treat reports of abuse—or threats thereof—with derision or callousness. In particular, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) prisoners describe being treated dismissively by staff. According to numerous survivor letters, TDCJ officials tend to conflate homosexuality and trans- gender status with consent to rape, and as a result fail to take appropriate action when these inmates request assistance. A prisoner at the Telford Unit describes being told, when asking for protection, “You’re an admitted homosexual, you can’t be raped. We’re denying you. You learn how to defend yourself.”
The Department of Justice recently opened a 60-day public comment period on new national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention. To participate in the comment period by signing a petition that will be entered into the official record, go here.