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Texas unit has highest sexual assault rate, inmate survey finds

A nationwide survey shows an Amarillo prison for men has the highest rate of inmates reporting they were pressured into sex or sexual contact with prison staff.

The Amarillo Globe-News reported Sunday that 8.1 percent of inmates at the Clements Unit alleged sexual victimization by staff involving force or threat of force. The figure comes from a report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, which surveyed 92,000 inmates over 2011 and 2012.

Texas prisons spokesman Jason Clark questioned the survey's findings, saying many allegations were not actually sexual assault and "could reflect offender attitudes toward other offensive behavior or legitimate security precautions."

The Clements Unit also had the highest rate of inmates saying they were coerced or pressured into sex among male prisons, at 8.7 percent.

The survey identified five Texas jails and prisons with high rates of sexual victimization by inmates or sexual staff misconduct — more than any other state included in the National Inmate Survey, which was released in May. The Clements Unit was one of only two Texas facilities identified as having high rates of sexual misconduct with staff. The other was the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony in East Texas, at 6.8 percent of inmates.

Two other Texas prisons surveyed were also identified as having high rates of inmates sexually abusing other inmates, with a rate of 8.4 percent at Montford Psychiatric Facility in Lubbock and 7.8 percent at the Stiles Unit in Beaumont.

The survey is a provision of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, legislation that sought to reduce sexual assault in prisons through the development of prevention standards, punishment of sexual assault and standardized data collection on the crime.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Office of the Inspector General investigates knowledge or allegations of staff sexual misconduct, said Ralph Bales, the Prison Rape Elimination Act ombudsman for the department. Employees who violate the department's sexual abuse policies, federal or state law are subject to disciplinary penalties, including criminal prosecution, he said.

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