In 2003, Pres. George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The bill required federal and state lockups to implement certain procedures and standards that would address sexual abuse behind bars. Not doing so would run the risk of penalties, including the loss of federal grant money.
The final rules took effect in 2012, and the Texas governor at the time, Rick Perry, refused to sign on. But in a 180-degree reversal, current governor Greg Abbott says the state will be brought in-line with the law.
Matt Simpson, a senior policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, talks to the Standard about the shift.
“In a way, the state was heading in the same direction as the federal requirements,” he says. “It was Gov. Perry, probably in some ways, talking about his opposition to DC.”
Because Texas was creating an ombudsman in the correctional system to address sexual assault, Perry may have felt the state was already working toward compliance. Simpson says.
“Ultimately. Governor Abbott decided that these are straightforward, common sense things to implement to prevent sexual assault,” he says. “It’s very likely Gov. Perry had one idea of how we could get there and Gov. Abbott has a different one.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.