Lawmakers are trying to identify mechanisms for oversight of Texas correctional facilities in light of recent prison sexual assault scandals. Officials recently settled with the family of a raped prisoner who committed suicide in the private Val Verde County Jail, managed by GEO Corp. Recently, Michele Deitch suggested Texas needs to create an independent agency responsible for conducting regular inspections of all correctional facilities.
According to Deitch, an independent oversight agency should have a "golden key" that gives it access to any institution at any time without prior notice. Inspectors should be able to meet confidentially with juvenile and adult prisoners; interview employees; and examine official records.
The type of oversight Deitch is suggesting is different from anything currently operating in Texas today. After all, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards did not successfully monitor the Val Verde County Jail.
LeTisha Tapia was raped after being labeled a snitch. Tapia, who died at the Val Verde County Jail in July 2004, was housed in the same cell block as male inmates and reported that guards allowed male and female inmates to have sex with each other. An independent monitor with the ability to maintain Tapia's confidentially and prevent retaliation could have saved her life.