Download TAASA’s Legislative Update – 85th Session
We are happy to report that the 85th Legislative Session was a resounding success for survivors and the programs who support them. It speaks volumes that in an extremely tight budget year, amid several hotly contested debates along partisan lines, the Legislature’s budget writers quickly agreed to prioritize funding items for sexual assault survivors, including level funding for rape crisis centers and a special appropriation to process untested sexual assault evidence kits.
In the update, you’ll find detailed descriptions of the many changes to law that affect survivors’ interests. Although TAASA’s resources allow us to identify only a few items as top advocacy priorities, the Public Policy Team is proud to have worked closely with legislators, allied organizations, and stakeholders to shape many of the bills included here into the best legislation possible to prevent violence and support survivors.
Every person, including individuals in jail or prison, deserves to be free from sexual violence. Sexual victimization is not included in a prison sentence, and it should not be part of the punishment. States bear legal responsibility under the Constitution and federal law for protecting prisoners in its facilities from sexual violence and other serious harm. Yet, people in prison are at heightened risk of sexual assault. In particular, the State of Texas and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) have failed to protect prisoners in their custody from sexual assaults. Despite more than a decade of federal legislative efforts and oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice—including the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)—the prevalence of sexual assault remains high in Texas prisons. Several prisons in Texas have among the highest rates of sexual victimization in the nation. Regardless of claims that PREA standards are being implemented in Texas prisons, reports from prisoners themselves indicate that sexual assaults in Texas correctional facilities remain a serious problem. The alarming frequency of sexual assault in Texas prisons not only contributes to conditions in Texas facilities that are abhorrent to human dignity, but also violates the constitutional and human rights of prisoners in the TDCJ.
The report urges the state to make efforts to comply with PREA standards across the state and to adopt other recommendations meant to reduce the number of sexual assaults taking place in state correctional facilities.
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