For a brief instant, it was starting to appear as though a wave of sanity had swept over the Texas GOP.
First, Rep. Sarah Davis became the first Republican state lawmaker in history to publicly back same-sex marriage.
Alas, though, it was apparently too good to be true, at least with regard to Abbott. The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has rejected the governor's assurance of compliance with PREA:
Mr. Abbott, who took office in January, was under some pressure in the week before the deadline, during which an article in The New York Times highlighted the sexual abuse problem in Texas’ prisons, an editorial in The Dallas Morning News urged the governor to “enact the federal reforms now,” and protesters in Austin called on him to take action against prison rape.
“I can assure you that we will fully implement D.O.J.’s PREA standards wherever feasible,” he wrote to the attorney general. …
Mr. Abbott did not, however, provide the required written assurance that Texas would spend at least 5 percent of certain federal grants to achieve full compliance with the anti-rape standards.
“The letter we received from Texas makes no such representation and, therefore, it cannot be considered to be an assurance under PREA,” said Dena W. Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.
All told, nine more states certified compliance with PREA this year, brining the total to 11. Texas was one of six states that had rejected the federal standards outright, foregoing federal funds rather than striving to meet them. Two of those states, Florida and Indiana, have since said they're working to comply with PREA. It was unclear whether whether the other three, Arizona, Idaho and Utah, had done so, The NYT reports.
According to Just Detention International, which works to eliminate sexual abuse in detention facilities, LGBT inmates are 15 times more likely to be victims of prison rape than non-LGBT inmates. And Texas is home to five of the 10 facilities in the nation with the highest rates of sexual assault.
Jael Humphrey of Lambda Legal, which is suing Texas on behalf of transgender inmate Passion Star, who's been repeatedly raped in assaulted in the state's prisons, issued this statement:
“We are profoundly disappointed that Governor Abbott has neglected to make a meaningful commitment to meet the PREA standards set by the DOJ, and we applaud the Justice Department for demanding real commitment from Texas to use grant funds to actually enforce these standards. Governor Abbott cannot coast by paying lip service to PREA, while Passion Star and other incarcerated people remain at risk of continued sexual violence. Lambda Legal will continue to press Governor Abbott to take the necessary steps to end prison rape in his written statements and to turn his words into action.”