The current ranking shows an improvement over previous years. Clements’ rate of sexual victimization has declined since 2008, when it was ranked the second highest by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.Further:
However, in the current survey, more inmates at Clements report being forced, coerced or pressured into sex or sexual contact with prison staff than any other male prison in the country.
According to the latest survey, staff sexual misconduct with inmates also decreased from the second highest in 2008 to the fifth highest, with 9.5 percent of offenders reporting sexual activity with staff.
While staff sexual misconduct at Clements is on the decline, 8.1 percent of inmates reported sexual victimization by staff involving force or threat of force, the highest rate of any prison or jail in the country, according to the survey. Clements inmates also reported the highest rate for inmates being coerced or pressured into sex among male prisons, at 8.7 percent.Excellent example of localizing a national story. I don't understand why more state and local reporters don't take this extra step to flesh out the state and local implications of national news, surveys, studies, etc.. Fulfilling that task when the MSM don't has become a staple of this blog's coverage over the years.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Office of the Inspector General investigates knowledge or allegations of staff sexual misconduct, said Ralph Bales, the Prison Rape Elimination Act ombudsman for TDCJ. Employees who violate TDCJ sexual abuse policies, federal or state law are subject to disciplinary penalties, including criminal prosecution, he said. Clements Unit staff receive sexual abuse prevention training, Bales said. ...
The TDCJ Safe Prisons Program screens offenders for possible vulnerability to sexual assault or aggressiveness, Bales said. Inmates take a sexual assault awareness course that includes methods to avoid victimization, and the program was expanded in 2010 to include the inpatient mental health population, he said. Almost half of the 3,557 inmates at the Clements Unit are on an inpatient or outpatient mental health caseload, Bales said.
Inmates held for violent sexual offenses and who are under psychological distress reported higher rates of sexual victimization by another inmate, according to the survey. Gay, lesbian or bisexual inmates are among those who are most at risk for sexual assault, the report said.
Understaffing, high employee turnover and the level of violence at a facility can contribute to its sexual assault rate, said Michele Deitch, jail conditions expert and professor at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Higher rates can also be associated with facilities in rural locations, which can have reduced transparency, she said.
As Grits pointed out when the DOJ report was first released, there's a similar story to be written related to the Harris County Jail, which also ranked among the top sites for sexual victimization in the survey. The Globe-News has now explored the subject for Texas prisons (a story which will have wider reach since AP picked it up). But in Harris County the news provides statistical support for a problem which has sometimes raised its head anecdotally, providing a fuller picture of sexual misconduct problems at the jail. Last fall, half of dozen deputies and jailers were fired over sexual misconduct and these survey results suggest they weren't the only ones engaging in such behavior. In response to that episode, Sheriff Adrian Garcia installed additional cameras throughout the jail. (There has also been alleged staff victimization of inmates at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center.) In the context of that recent history, localizing this national story for the Harris County Jail seems like a no-brainer.
The Globe-News has explored the story's implications in the context of the Texas prison system. Now it's either somebody at the Chronicle or some other Houston media outlet's turn to do the same for the Harris County jail. There was a time, back when there were a lot more paid, full-time journalists on the beat in Texas, when fleshing out the state and local implications of such national stories would happen nearly automatically. Now, it happens piecemeal, often weeks after the initial story, if it happens at all.
MORE: Below the jump, find a little more background on the situation at the Harris County Jail from the Sheriff's communications director and former Houston Chronicle reporter Alan Bernstein, received via email:
I'm not surprised most of the problems are occurring where the highest risk inmates are housed. Given this additional detail, the situation at the 1200 Baker Street facility in particular could use remedial attention.As someone whose newspaper reporting career ran from the 1970s to the current decade, I could not agree more with this part of your blog post today:“The Globe-News has explored the story's implications in the context of the Texas prison system. Now it's either somebody at the Chronicle or some other Houston media outlet's turn to do the same for the Harris County jail. There was a time, back when there were a lot more paid, full-time journalists on the beat in Texas, when fleshing out the state and local implications of such national stories would happen nearly automatically. Now, it happens piecemeal, often weeks after the initial story, if it happens at all.”However, media inquiring about the report’s statistics on the Harris County Jail will find that the report indicates that the reported inmate sexual victimization rate for the Harris County jail system is at or near the 2 percent national rate.Four Harris County jail buildings are listed in the report:At the 701 N. San Jacinto Jail, which houses about 4,000 inmates, 61.7 percent of the inmates responded to the BJS survey. The reported rate was 0.9 percent, below the national average.At the 1200 Baker Jail, which houses about 4,100 inmates, 58 percent of the inmates responded to the BJS survey. The reported rate was 6.3 percent, above the national average.At the 1307 Baker Jail, which houses about 775 inmates, 65.5 percent of the inmates responded to the BJS survey. The reported rate was 1 percent, below the national average.At the 711 N. San Jacinto Jail, which houses about 130 inmates, 59 percent of the inmates responded to the BJS survey. The reported rate was 0.In sum, three out of four of our jail buildings were below the national rate and one was above it – in a survey in which more than a third of the inmates did not respond. And in one of the four facilities, the variance from the national average is the difference between 2 percent and 6 percent.This indicates there is no system-wide problem in the jail system relative to the national averages, even as you state that “the Harris County Jail . . . also ranked among the top sites for sexual victimization in the survey.”However the jail command takes the results seriously and is studying them to see what if anything should be done differently to bring us closer to the desired rate of zero at all buildings. The Sheriff’s Office takes any of these alleged incidents seriously. Each and every one is fully investigated, the findings are referred to the district attorney’s office when appropriate, and housing arrangements for inmate victims are changed when needed.How is the 1200 Baker jail different from the others? It houses all of the female inmates (though I did not see a gender breakdown in the report), the Mental Health Unit and the largest medical clinic. This facility and 701 N. San Jacinto, which together hold about 90 percent of the system’s inmates, contain maximum security units.The Prison Rape Elimination Act, which required that this report be compiled, has been studied closely by the sheriff’s staff since its inception in 2003. Jail commanders are always seeking new ways to address the problem of sexual victimization of inmates. Before the BJS report came out, the sheriff’s office created a position of a PREA coordinator and is in the process of filling it. Also before the report came out, the staff began working to establish a phone line that inmates could call from their cells so that they could have an additional way to report sexual assault allegations. Inmates already have several ways to report such incidents.