Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) refused last week to adopt federal standards aimed at combatting rape in prisons, saying that it would be "impossible" for Texas to comply with the new measures.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on March 28, the governor wrote that though the intention of 2003's Prison Rape Elimination Act is "commendable," the Department of Justice's rules to implement the legislation are "unnecessarily cumbersome" and "counterproductive."
The DOJ's rules address widespread sexual assault in prisons by imposing requirements such as separating teens from adults, eliminating cross-gender pat-downs in teen and juvenile units and allotting more staff to juvenile facilities. The federal government spent 10 years soliciting input from experts as to how to best implement the law.
Perry argued that the DOJ's rules wouldn't be feasible in Texas, because the state -- unlike the federal government -- considers 17-year-old inmates to be adults rather than teens. The governor wrote that it would be too expensive to separate those younger inmates from other adult prisoners, and that the cost of adding more staff would be "unacceptable" in smaller counties.
"The rules appear to have been created in a vacuum with little regard for input from those who daily operate state prisons and local jails," Perry wrote.
Just Detention International, an advocacy organization focused on preventing sexual abuse, wrote in a press release Friday that Perry's stance "puts the safety of thousands of people at risk" and "ignores the overwhelming evidence of a human rights crisis in Texas prisons."
The press release cites a 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics report that singled out more detention facilities in Texas than in any other state for having high levels of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse.
The organization also refuted Perry's criticism that the DOJ's standards were developed without input from corrections officials, noting that a bipartisan commission held hearings with corrections officials and others, including one in Austin in 2007.
A 2010 Bureau of Justice survey found that 1 in 8 juveniles in detention are sexually assaulted, with LGBT inmates at least 10 times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse.
Texas could lose federal grant money if state prisons don't comply with the law.
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