The Texas Prison System
A prison is a place for people who committed the crime. When criminals are behind bars, peaceful residents are protected from new robberies, murders, and rapes. People want those, who have been sentenced for their crimes, to suffer. However, there is one problem. Accused criminals are ordinary people. Although they have committed a crime, they deserve their human rights to be respected. Many people are put to prison for minor crimes or even by mistake. In addition, prisons are supposed not only to punish an offender but also to emend their behavior. Prisons are not a resort, but the Texas prison system is one of the worst and the cruelest one due to its strict rules and irresponsible attitude to prisoners.
The Texas Prison System Facts
The most common crimes in Texas are burglary of habitation, robbery, driving while intoxicated (3rd offence or more), sexual assault of children, assault with deadly weapon, burglary of building, and indecency with child (Criminal Justice Assistance Division). The length of sentence for the majority of prisoners is from 5 to 10 years or from 10 to 20 years. It should be noted that Black, Hispanic, and White prisoners are sentenced in equal amount, so there is no racism. Only 8% of prisoners are female (Criminal Justice Assistance Division).
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Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is one of the biggest in the USA. Each next prison is an additional burden for taxpayers. There are 155,000 men and women in TDCJ, while one person costs $18,538 per year to taxpayers (Criminal Justice Assistance Division). Texas has quite a high average rate of crime, which is 24% higher than the national rate (Galabert). Only 300,000 people (18% of prisoners) need substance abuse treatment, but in fact, they do not receive required help (Galabert). Over 7,000 Texas prisoners are mentally ill, but only 17% are specially treated (Galabert). This special treatment is also required for high-risk offenders like substance abusers or sex offenders and other groups of prisoners. Thus, tprisoners do not receive appropriate medical help. In many cases, their conditions are too late to treat, or there is even a suicide epidemic when prisoners should be under control. It is expensive to subsist prisoners, so they are not protected.
Sexual Violence in the Texas Prison System
As it has been mentioned, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the third largest prison system in the USA as more than 150,000 prisoners are held in prisons (Austin). Approximately 500-600 prisoners are sexually assaulted every year (Austin). Texas has the highest number of prisoners reports about being sexually assaulted, which is four times higher than the average national rate (Austin). About 30% of reports are not accepted because of witnesses absence or lack of performed rape kits and forensic exams (Austin). In most cases, they are not performed because it is too late. Some prisoners are afraid to report, while some of them do not make sense of it, understanding that no one cares about them.
Another problem is that assaulters are usually black people, while their victims are white people. In other words, 60% of victims are white people, while 68% sexually assaults are committed by black people; in 19% of cases, the culprits are Hispanic, and only 12% crimes of such type are committed by white men (Austin). Furthermore, 86% of cases are sustained in big male prisons (Austin). It should be noted that there are Safe Prisons Program requirements, but many individuals do not follow those requirements. They disregard them, facing the allegation of sexual assault. Solid cell fronts foster the occurrence of sexual assaults since they permit privacy for prisoners and reduce the noise in the unit. It is hard for the staff to see what is going on in cells because of cell doors. Such unpleasant cases happen as the result of lack of supervision by the staff.
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There are some recommendations regarding the decrease of the rate of sexual assaults. First, the prisoners should be encouraged to report about such cases and they should not be afraid of doing it. Second, prison management should make stronger efforts to monitor, reassign, or supervise the prisoners. Third, the victims of such cases are usually transferred without legal actions, and this problem has to be solved. The fourth recommendation is that prison databases should be expanded into four sections – potential victims, known victims, potential assailants, and known assailants.
The Eighth Worst Prison
It is obvious that time spent in prison should not be pleasant. Nevertheless, at the same time, it is not supposed to be cruel as it is. Fellow prisoners rape others, guards beat offenders for the slightest provocation, prisoners go crazy because of long-term solitary imprisonment, or medical neglect causes new deaths. Both men and women face those problems every year during their stay in prison. These people deserve punishment, but the conditions they live in are too strict and cruel.
A group of prisoners accused the Texas prison system of cruel attitude to them. According to their claims, it is hard to stay in cellblocks since there is no air-conditioning, and sometimes, the temperature reaches 104 degrees (Burnett). As Burnett quotes plaintiff Keith Cole, A lot of times it gets so hot in our dorms that we have to strip down to our boxers, and we’ll just lay on the floor because it’s a little bit cooler on the floor than it is trying to sit up in our bunks. The extreme heat can kill some prisoners because of their health conditions. There are 79 prisons in Texas without air-conditioning. This problem is not going to be solved because of very high cost associated with its solution. For one prison to install appropriate equipment, it would cost about $22 million (Burnett). This is only one example of problems that almost every prison has in the region.
Texas is the state where death penalty is allowed. Many people have accused the Texas prison system and other similar regions of crime against humans. Some people think that death penalty is wrong and no one has right to take someones life. Texas has executed more prisoners than any other state in the US history. This year, the State of Texas has already put seven people to death. More to say, 60% of all death sentences over the last five years in Texas have been imposed on African-Americans, which constitutes only 11.8% of Texas population (Criminal Justice Assistance Division). However, death penalty is not the only scary thing for a prisoner. Despite the awful fate of prisoners, which is death, before execution, they face many other problems like single cells on 22-hour-a-day lockdown or separate cages during daily recreations. Such prisoners cannot even have a talk on the phone or meet their friends and relatives. There were cases were suicide was more attractive for prisoner than execution. Thus, this is another evidence that the conditions in death row are worse than death itself.
Being a prisoner is not supposed to be pleasant, but being a prisoner in Texas is even worse. The living conditions of Texas prisoners are awful. People do not receive appropriate medical help. The reason of many deaths is often medical neglect. Guards are not always aware of sexual assaults because of their incompetence or lack of staff. Prisoners are faced with the staffs lack of concern. Many prison units do not have even air-conditioner, not to mention other basic equipment. Another problem is death row, which is even worse for prisoners than the execution itself. Therefore, the Texas prison system needs reforms and improvement.