Thursday, April 10, 2014

Who is advising Rick Perry on prison rape?

After this blog broke the story about Gov. Rick Perry's letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder telling him Texas wouldn't comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, I sent open records requests to the Governor's office and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice asking for "copies of any report by the 'consultant referred to TDCJ by the PREA Resource Center' referenced in Gov. Perry's March 28 letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder as well as any correspondence to and/or from said consultant."

On Wednesday, I received an email from Assistant General Counsel Chris Sterner from the governor's office informing me that, "we have determined that the OOG has no information responsive to your request.  You may, however, wish to contact The Texas Department of Criminal Justice ('TDCJ') to obtain the requested information."

Here's the funny thing about that: I sent the same request to TDCJ at the same time I asked the governor. Last week I received a phone call from a legal assistant in TDCJ's general counsel's office, Jessica Cole, asking me to send them a copy of Perry's letter, which I did. She said the TDCJ general counsel's office knew nothing about any consultant's report and they appeared to know nothing about the governor's letter, either. I told her it had been covered pretty widely in the mainstream media and she replied, jokingly, "well, we don't get out much."

Cole told me on the phone April 2nd that the agency appeared to have no information responsive to my request. But I asked her to follow up with TDCJ's PREA Compliance division to make sure. Yesterday I received another email from Cole asking me to re-send Perry's letter to another legal assistant in their office. He is apparently following up and maybe they'll find the report, assuming it exists.

Still, all this strikes me as quite strange. Governor Perry sends a strident letter to the feds claiming Texas can't comply with PREA because a consultant issued "absurd" recommendations that would violate federal labor law. But the governor's office hasn't seen the consultant's report and the TDCJ general counsel's office a) knew nothing about a consultant and b) hadn't seen Perry's letter.

The fact that neither Perry's office nor the TDCJ general counsel have seen a consultant's report makes me wonder who wrote this letter. Based on whose legal advice did Perry conclude that complying with PREA "would likely cause the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to violate federal labor laws"? Was that an actual legal interpretation or some sort of political grandstanding? Where is the governor getting his legal advice on this topic?

It begs credulity to imagine Perry authored that letter himself. One wonders, who wrote it and why didn't Perry's office run it by TDCJ's lawyers?

Perry's decision to thumb his nose at PREA regulations has received national attention, so maybe it was just a way to play to the GOP base by snubbing the Obama Administration in preparation for his widely anticipated (re)run for president. I can't tell what's going on. It's a head scratcher.


Anonymous said...

Clearly the letter even though it was signed by Perry, contained too much technical information to have been written by Perry.

The Moss Group was consulting with TDCJ days before the letter went out. TDCJ appeared to be making recommended changes and even sent out new instructions on PREA compliance the same day the letter came out.

I doubt TDCJ was on board with Perry's letter and wondered if TJJD was the cause of the letter. The letter took me by surprise.

I don't think this was Perry grandstanding to Obama since the letter was sent out on a Friday the 28th of March and no media receiving it. The only press release going out was on Monday critical of Perry's stance.

The only thing I could see the Moss Group approaching the Governor on was possibly employee background checks regarding to civil records and being out of compliance on staffing ratios.

I doubt Perry was standing up for the female officers in TDCJ either, since he vetoed fair pay legislation and those TDCJ women received a 5% raise over two years, while the male dominated DPS officers got a 20% payraise.

Lucy Frost said...

Could the Moss Group shed more light?

The Moss Group, Inc.
1312 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, District of Columbia 20003

Toll Free: 877.546.1444
International: 202.546.4747
Fax: 202.546.1047

dfisher said...


I always find it disturbing when a government agency responds to a public records request via a phone call, which leaves no paper trail.

In the future should a reporter request all documents held by the TDCJ concerning this issue, as it now stands their is no document with the TDCJ response to your request on file. Always require the response to be in writing and when producing a document requested by a government agency, reference your public records request date and subject matter.

Doing this leaves a paper trail and a better chance someone will discover it later if this issue arises again should Perry actually run for the Presidency.

Soronel Haetir said...

Rod Smith,

One thing about your statement, especially if you are talking about kits going back to 1992 it would not surprise me if the testing available at that time would have produced no viable evidence. DNA testing has become far more sensitive over that period. And DNA testing is destructive, if you test and come up with nothing you don't actually know there was nothing to be found, you only know that you didn't find anything with the test you ran.

I am not saying that is the case in the specific example highlighted but it is certainly something to keep in mind with such blanket assertions as you make.

rodsmith said...

it may surprise you Soronel but I agree. my statement was not saying it was diff but it was something they needed to look at and see if any criminal charges for neglance needed to be brought against those that did not test the items properly and expediously.

Anonymous said...

I was reading the new PREA standards recently issued by the USDOJ who sat on their butts for 11 years developing them. They are simply a backdoor effort to nationalize prisons for those states willing to put up with their bull shit. One standard that is particularly unacceptable is:

(d) The facility shall implement policies and procedures that enable inmates to shower, perform bodily functions, and change clothing without nonmedical staff of the opposite gender viewing their breasts, buttocks, or genitalia, except in exigent circumstances or when such viewing is incidental to routine cell checks. Such policies and procedures shall require staff of the opposite gender to announce their presence when entering an inmate housing unit.

The highlighted sentence is antithetical to good security of the institution. It's obvious these standards were written by desk jockeys who haven't a clue as to how prisons operate.

sunray's wench said...

Anon 8.19 ~ it is only "antithetical" if you have officers of the opposite gender supervising inmates in those circumstances.

There is so much bad press and feeling in TDCJ about female officers getting intimately involved with male inmates, I would have thought TDCJ staff would have been in favour of keeping the guys with the guys and the girls with the girls.