Dallas, TX, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The number of reported sexual assaults in Texas prisons increased 160 percent since 2000, but officials disagree on why, The Dallas Morning News reports.

State prison officials say they are more vigilant today and inmates feel more comfortable reporting the crime, but an attorney for two inmates suing the system said Texas has the worst problem in the nation.

"I really have become convinced over the last three years or so that Texas is the prison-rape capital of the country," attorney Margaret Winter told the News. "When prisoners report it, they are ignored, laughed at and often punished."

Mike Viesca, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said officials take the complaints seriously and he notes the number is still low for a prison population of 151,000 inmates.

Since 2000, at least 129 Texas inmates have alleged they were raped or had sexual contact with corrections officers. Inmate-on-inmate assaults are even more frequent and appear to be increasing, the newspaper said.

Overall, the number of reported sexual assaults in Texas prisons has increased 160 percent from 234 in 2000 to 609 in 2004, according to the records.


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