These stats are perhaps a tad misleading, at least when comparing Texas to other states, in that we're one of the few states with a fairly comprehensive reporting program, so more alleged prison rapes are identified at Texas units than is probably the case in other jurisdictions that report few or no confirmed inmate on inmate sexual assaults. Still, the numbers reported are high and shocking. If it's really true at some units 9-15% of inmates are sexually assaulted, that's a pretty nightmarish environment and doesn't speak well for management or security at those facilities.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice runs five of the 10 prisons with the highest rates of sexual victimization in the country. Today and Friday in Houston, the U.S. Department of Justice Review Panel on Prison Rape is holding public hearings to examine the policies and practices at these five prisons. The hearing provides a unique opportunity for policy-makers, and all Texans, to seek solutions to the systemic problems that have placed the TDCJ so firmly among the nation's most troubled prison systems.
The BJS prison ranking was based on the first-ever nationwide inmate survey, in which prisoners across the country were asked whether they had experienced sexual abuse at their current facility in the past 12 months.
Nationwide, the BJS found that 4.5 percent of prison inmates — that's 60,500 people, more than the population of Galveston — reported being sexually assaulted in the previous year alone. At each of the five TDCJ facilities represented at this week's hearing — the Allred Unit, the Clements Unit, the Coffield Unit, the Estelle Unit and the Mountain View Unit — between 9.3 percent and 15.7 percent of inmates reported that they had been sexually abused in the same period.
While anyone can become the victim of sexual abuse in detention, the most vulnerable inmates tend to be young, small in stature, nonviolent, transgender, gay or perceived to be gay, and inexperienced in the ways of prison life.
MORE: See additional analysis on Texas prison rape data from the Houston Chronicle.