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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is a criminal justice body established by the government of the United States in the state of Texas. The primary purpose of TDCJ is to handle cases of criminal justice throughout the state. Apart from this, the department is also responsible for handling adult offenders and managing them in state-run prisons, correctional facilities, and state jails.
However, authorities running the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have been under tremendous scrutiny from human rights watchdogs and other independent bodies for the fact that disturbing cases of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape have been reported in the department. This paper aims to shed light on some of these disturbing cases.
It is the responsibility of the government to provide protection and security to all its citizens regardless of their social status. Even though numerous departments have been established by the state government of United States to provide this protection and security to the population and also uphold justice, several cases have come to light when officials hired in such departments have either shown negligence towards their responsibilities or grossly violated the code that they have taken the oath to follow.
The Texas Department of Justice abounds with numerous examples in this regard since many cases have been reported in the department over a period spanning nearly three decades.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is headquartered in the BOT Complex located in Hunstville and operates the largest state-run prison system in the country. In all, the prison houses thousands of inmates who are promised food, shelter, and protection while serving their sentence behind its walls. The department itself is divided into three major divisions:
- Correctional Institutions Division.
- Parole Division.
- Community Justice Assistance Division.
The Correctional Institutions Division is based in the BOT Complex situated in Hunstville and runs several secure correctional facilities. These facilities are mainly prisons that have been established to house individuals who have been convicted of capital offenses and various degrees of felony offenses.
Apart from this, the facility also operates state-run jails that house convicts who have been turned in state jail felony offenses (Alarid, 2013). These offenses include assaults of the lower level and drugs. Apart from this, domestic violence and property offenses also fall in this category.
The state jails operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are also used as transfer units for felons and criminals who are bound for state-run prisons. The person who has been transferred to state jail for a state jail offense cannot be held by the jail for a period of more than two years.
On the other hand, it is also a legal offense to transfer the person to prison before he has completed at least seventy-five days in the state jail (Cole et al., 2006). It is during these short days the problem of sexual harassment has been investigated, as well as assaults and even raped at the hands of prison officials.
Sadly, in a majority of cases of sexual abuse, the prison officials are either involved or indirectly encourage the offenders to commit such heinous crimes. Moreover, it is also common for officials in state-run jails and prisons to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to such cases.
This is mainly why cases of sexual abuse have continued to be reported from time to time under their nose. Let us consider some cases of sexual abuse that have occurred in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice but were not immediately reported to the concerned authorities.
Examples of Sexual Assault in Texas Department of Criminal Justice
A prisoner by the alias of S.M. was first introduced to the Texas prisons when he was only eighteen years of age. After spending only a week inside, he became only too aware of the carnal instincts of other inmates who used to look upon him with sexual lust and malicious intent. S. M. somehow managed to stay away safe from these sexual predators, hanging around prison guards most of the time and avoiding any confrontation.
Yet, predatory inmates were persistent and kept targeting him time and again so that he was forced to devise a unique strategy that would provide him with the perfect shelter against these beasts who were hell-bent on violating him.
S. M. made sure that he violated as many prison rules as he possibly could to avoid the other inmates. He refused to cut his hair and shave regularly and even dismissed the idea of going to work. His main goal for acting defiantly was to earn a punishment so that he would be rewarded with a safely locked cell.
To his amazement, his plan worked and this became the perfect strategy that he had at his disposal to avoid the sexual advances of other inmates. However, as he reached twenty-one years of age, all his plans failed as he was brutally raped by a band of inmates who had waited patiently all this time just to get a chance to pounce on him (Easton, S 2011).
He only reported later, "They were three and strongly built. They always moved in a group and I could see that they were stalking me. They followed me one day and I panicked. I started running and to my horror, they were chasing me, all three of them. I reached an empty room which I later realized was used for laundry. The room was deserted and even though I frantically searched around for a weapon, there weren't any I could find.
Finally, they were at the door and I knew what was going to happen. They entered the room and one of them locked the door behind them. Two of the inmates pinned me to the ground while the third approached me. It was too late to resist. They raped me one by one as two men held me down to the ground to crush my resistance.
After it was over, I was in a trauma and stayed in my cell all day, refusing any food and drink and not talking to anyone. I felt ashamed and knew that this incident event had left me scarred for life."
Another prisoner by the initials F. J. started in a minimum-security prison. Although he was on minimum custody, he was exposed to closed custody while he worked in the fields. This meant the other inmates saw him almost every day and began to harbor sexual lust for him. There eventually came a time when they were making subtle advances on him and it was only then that F. J. learned of their malicious intent towards him.
Threatening notes started finding him soon and it grew to a point where F. J. was terrified to go to work. Eventually, he refused to go to work one day and was consequently placed in specific call restrictions as punishment. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him as he was allowed to spend 24 hours a day in his cell.
However, repeated violations led to a decline in his custody level which dropped to closed custody. Hence, he was placed among prisoners who were more aggressive and violent towards him. After completing thirty uneventful days under pleasant special cell restrictions, F. J. was eventually introduced to the closed custody general population where he was immediately surrounded by hostile inmates all of whom demanded money of him.
Although such cases of extortion by other inmates are common among prisons, they are seldom reported by concerned authorities for reasons that are not yet clear (Cole et al., 2006). The prison mates demanded money in return for protection and there was little that F. J. had in his power to refuse them. Neither did he assume that the inmates would encourage negotiation.
Hence, F. J. succumbed to their influence. He started violating rules so that he spent nearly three years of his term with special cell restrictions. However, it was also common for F. J. to share this special cell with other inmates at times and this is when things started getting rough.
On one occasion, he was subdued by as many as five inmates who all overpowered him and anally raped him one after another. It was morning and F. J. could hear the television in the nearest security room which meant that the security guards were within earshot. He tried to scream aloud to gain the attention of the security but no one ever came.
Finally, it was over and before leaving the cell, the inmates threatened F. J. of serious repercussions if he even thought about reporting the matter to the authorities. F. J. was almost convinced that the authorities running the prison were involved in the act. However, he approached a sergeant intending to explain to him the entire incident that had unfolded in the cell (Alarid, 2013).
Unfortunately, he could not describe all the gory details about how he had been anally raped by the inmates. Instead, he simply ended up blurting out that he was having serious problems with some of the inmates. Hence, he was dismissed almost immediately by the sergeant.
Major Causes of Sexual Activity
Incidents of sexual activity have been going on in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for quite some time although fewer of them ever made it out to the general public. The major causes that have promoted such habits in the inmates are a lack of proper security arrangements. It is important to note that Illiteracy is another major factor that has played a pivotal role in encouraging such activities among inmates. Most of the inmates come from a conservative background where they themselves have faced abuse as a child. This abuse may have been inflicted by the father or any other member of the family (Human Rights Watch et al., 2003).
This would include physical, mental as well as sexual abuse. Most of the inmates have not visited schools to be educated and taught how to react to different situations. This encourages them to let their rage out in their way which becomes disastrous for themselves as well as for the people around them. Even the inmates who have been to schools, often report incidents including abuses or bullying. This seriously affects these individuals and further motivates them to indulge themselves in things that are not legally permitted by law. The conservative mentality of the people of the region affects an individual substantially.
Because of a lack of exposure, these inmates become wild and often tend to resort to violence. The lack of employment opportunities in the region also affects the individual's mental conditions. For example, it is commonly reported that fathers mostly come home and beat their children up. This leads the child to bubble up to its emotions and let them out for once. This one-time thing is considered to be the most dangerous and what makes them criminals (Mariner & Human Rights Watch, 2001).
Major Reasons Why Such Incidents Go Unreported
Many reasons have been attributed to incidents of sexual assault and rape within state-run jails and prisons which remain unreported by authorities. The leading reason among these is that inmates who become a victim of such acts are too ashamed to report such incidents to the authorities because they fear that they will become a mockery within the prison cell. This fear of being mocked has played a major role in discouraging them from reporting such personal experiences to the authorities (Human Rights Watch et al., 2003).
Hence, victims unknowingly play right into the hands of perpetrators by failing to report such incidents. Some inmates also confessed how they were fearful of reporting incidents of sexual abuse to the concerned authorities out of fear that the news will make them a target of even a larger group of sexual predators who are in search of an easy prey that they can overpower.
Another major reason that has been responsible for such incidents going unreported is the reported attitude of some of the prison guards. There have been numerous cases where those inmates who have been sexually abused by other prison-mates have reported how they felt discouraged to share such incidents with prison guards because they were almost sure that they would not receive the desired level of cooperation from them.
In fact, at the request of remaining anonymous, several inmates have even confessed that they were sure that the perpetrators of such acts had received a helping hand from authorities within the prison (Mariner & Human Rights Watch, 2001). This help was usually given by placing the victim in a cell full of sexual predators and vice versa. The case of S. M. which has been discussed above is a similar case that can be used for reference in this regard.
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In other cases, victims of sexual abuse have been discouraged to report cases of sexual assault by inmates because prison guards have threatened to beat them up if they consider the idea of reporting the matter to the authorities. In one case, an inmate was locked in a safe room with a Latino inmate who anally raped him countless times over a period of three days. The prisoner was terrified of reporting the matter to the authorities since he was still locked in the cell with the inmate and that meant that his life was at risk if he entertained such ideas.
In other cases, victims of sexual assault have reported how prison authorities literally turned a deaf ear on them by saying that they were not concerned about what went on behind the bars. Such carelessness at the hands of prison authorities undermines the security of prisons and jails and puts the lives of countless inmates at risk (Human Rights Watch et al., 2003).
There have also been cases when the victims of sexual assaults and rapes have sought medical examination to prove that they have been sexually abused by fellow inmates. A medical examination is an effective tool that helps relevant authorities in determining whether the claims of the victim are true or false.
However, in the case of rape, the medical examination must be conducted within a certain time period so that injuries and other traces of sexual abuse can be identified. The traces that are identified through the medical examination generally involve bruises and internal injuries that are the result of forced sex.
After a certain period of time, it becomes almost impossible to tell that a person has been sexually assaulted. In numerous cases, it has been reported by victims that even though they reported such experiences to the concerned authorities and even asked for immediate medical examination to prove their claim, the authorities deliberately delayed reporting the same to the medical examination team, thereby weakening the case. Such incidents have been alarmingly common in prisons and jails that fall within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and threaten to undermine the safety of inmates.
There have been many similar cases of sexual harassment, abuse, and even brutal rapes within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and yet a majority of them have gone unreported to the larger public. Sadly this has mainly been because the authorities have either been involved in a majority of cases or have tried to brush these cases under the carpet out of fear of repercussions and possible action by the government. In either case, the continued cases of sexual abuse in prisons and jails raise a serious question on the ability of state-run corrective facilities to provide security and protection to the inmates.
Increased sexual activity in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has continued at an alarming rate and flagrantly undermines the commitment of the government to provide a safe environment to prison inmates. The saddest part about such instances is that, in a large number of cases of sexual assault and rapes, the authorities that are on the payroll of the government have been involved in providing cover to perpetrators of such acts.
To effectively eliminate the repeated occurrence of such incidents in state-run corrective facilities, a transparent structure needs to be introduced so that inmates are encouraged to report such cases without having to fear any repercussions that may arise as a direct consequence.
Only through increased involvement at the government level, such cases can be identified, as there is a high likelihood that authorities may have a high level of involvement in such acts. Therefore, the government needs to become actively involved sand and elaborate strategies that effectively increase the transparency of the structures of prisons and cells to decrease the chances of such incidents