JDI IN THE NEWS - 2003

Prison Rapes: Government Can Do More to End This Scourge, Dallas Morning News, May 23, 2003.

Rodney Hulin Jr. entered the Texas prison system in 1995 on an arson conviction. After being raped by an older inmate, he asked to be placed in protective custody. The request was denied. The small, slender Mr. Hulin was at the mercy of older prisoners, who beat and raped him repeatedly. Finally, in despair, Rodney Hulin hanged himself. He was 17. Rodney Hulin's eight-year prison term turned into a death sentence. So may Kendell Spruce's yearlong stint in an Arkansas jail for check fraud. After suffering 20 rapes, he emerged from jail with AIDS. No surprise there: According to The American Journal of Public Health, an estimated quarter of America's 2 million prisoners are HIV-positive. The activist group Stop Prison Rape figures 240,000 inmates endure rape every year. Hey, that's prison, you might say. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. But this isn't about paying a debt to society. This is about sexual torture of the helpless, aided and abetted by the indifference of many prison officials and wider society. It isn't a negligible matter, and it certainly isn't for crude jokes. Ask Rodney Hulin's father. On Capitol Hill, Rep. Frank Wolf, a law-and-order Virginia Republican, has put together an extraordinary left-right coalition behind his Prison Rape Reduction Act. The legislation would require the Justice Department to collect prison rape statistics and offer rape-prevention training to corrections staff and would authorize $40 million in grants to states and localities to fight the crisis. The bill is so common-sensical and humane that groups as disparate as Prison Fellowship, Focus on the Family, the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza have endorsed it. What's missing is President Bush's enthusiastic support. This legislation dovetails perfectly with compassionate conservatism, but more to the point, it is simply compassionate.