Kim Curtis, Comission to hear from prison rape survivors in SF, Associated Press, August 18, 2005.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - As a young, bisexual inmate weighing just 123
pounds, Kendell Spruce made a perfect target for sexual predators.
Nine months after landing in an Arkansas prison for violating parole
for check forgery, he said he had been raped by 27 fellow prisoners,
including a cellmate who infected him with HIV.
Spruce, now 42, planned to tell his story Friday to a congressional
commission studying prison rape and sexual abuse. Other witnesses
will include juveniles attacked in adult prisons and transgender men
The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was created by
Congress and was given about a year to prepare a report on the
problem and propose national standards governing the prevention,
investigation and punishment of abuse.
The commission's first hearing was held in June in Washington and
offered an overall look at the problem, according to Judge Reggie
Walton, chairman of the bipartisan, nine-member committee.
"One of the things that I have been most shocked by is we don't know
what the extent of the problem is," he said by phone prior to
Friday's meeting in San Francisco. "I believe in tough punishment,
but I firmly believe when we incarcerate people we're obligated to
make sure they're treated humanely."
The San Francisco hearing will focus on protecting vulnerable inmates
- young people, gay, lesbian and transgender inmates and the mentally
Among those scheduled to speak at the daylong hearing are Department
of Justice officials, state and local lawmakers and survivors of abuse.
Spruce, who has suffered from full-blown AIDS since 2002, was forced
to quit working and now lives in Flint, Mich. to be closer to his
"Everybody needs to know what happened to me," he said of his
experiences more than a dozen years ago. "I don't want it to happen
to more people."
One of the biggest hurdles advocates have faced is public
indifference and an unwillingness to take seriously the problem.
"Nobody would tell a joke on late night television about a woman
getting raped in a back alley," said Lovisa Stannow, acting executive
director of Stop Prisoner Rape, a nonprofit called upon by the
commission to provide survivor testimony. "Negative stereotypes about
prisoners and this perception it's not something that needs to be
taken seriously is a major barrier to ending this kind of violence."