Sexual abuse is common in prisons across the country. However, one right here in Lubbock has made the list in a nationwide study. The Montford Psychiatric Unit ranks fourth in the country for facilities with high rates of sexual victimization.
The 100-page Department of Justice study reveals sexual abuse is on the rise in America's correctional institutions. In 2011 through 2012, nearly four percent of state and federal prison inmates claimed to have experienced some type of sexual abuse, involving either another inmate or facility staff. And according to the report, some of the incidents happen here in our own back yard.
"It's sad that we made that list," State Representative Charles Perry tells us. "We need to do everything as a state to prevent that, especially at the Montford unit. That's a psychiatric unit so you have the potential of some mental health issues".
The yearly Justice Department study ranks the Montford Unit fourth for inmate on inmate sexual abuse. 166 of the facility's 819 inmates took the anonymous survey and nearly nine percent claim it happened to them.
"When you put those type of people together, bad people who do bad things, you're going to have that kind of activity," Perry said.
Perry tells us the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is aware of the issues at the facility along Highway 84 in Lubbock County.
"They are aware of it, they look at it and they read through it and they take it seriously. That's not a list you want to make, obviously," Perry said.
But Perry tells us the TDCJ may not know exactly where to start to fix the issue.
"There's about 156,000 inmates in the state, so you spread that out amongst one agency and all the personnel and federal guidelines that have to be met, state guidelines that got to be met. So sometimes we spend more time on administrative matters than inmate surveillance," Perry said.
Two other Texas prisons make the list, which is why Perry believes it needs to be addressed in Austin.
"If this becomes a prevalent issue, one that's not unique to this facility, I think the state will make it a priority," Perry said.
The TDCJ responded to Perry's inquiries about the study, but they refused to interview with us. They released a statement saying:
"The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been and will continue to be committed to operating a correctional system that is safe and secure for both offenders and staff. The TDCJ recognizes the seriousness of sexual abuse and strives to be proactive in our efforts to prevent these incidents from occurring. The agency, in conjunction with the Office of Inspector General and the Prison Elimination Act (PREA) Ombudsman, has a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault and other acts of violence. The agency's safe prisons program priorities both prevention and prosecution, and ensures every allegation is fully investigated. This program is in operation at all TDCJ correctional facilities. We believe the educational efforts of the safe prisons program are working. As the BJS survey highlights, offenders have multiple avenues to bring allegations forward and have them investigated by an independent entity."
It's important to note that the size of the prison population and the number of inmates participating can affect the survey outcome.
To view the entire study visit: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/svpjri1112.pdf
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