Lovisa Stannow, Letter to the Editor: Abuse of Prisoners, Santa Barabara Independent, September 24, 2009
Your article highlights a widespread, but often overlooked, human rights crisis—the sexual abuse of prisoners [“Two Sentenced to Jail for Sex with Inmate,” 9/14/09]. Most cases of sexual assault behind bars are not taken seriously, and it is refreshing to hear that the District Attorney pressed charges in this case.
Government statistics and academic studies show that prisoner rape is pervasive throughout the country. Our country gained an important new tool to stop this insidious form of abuse in June, when the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released the first-ever standards addressing sexual assault in detention. These standards set requirements for staff training, inmate education, and sexual assault investigations. They also require facilities to provide prisoner rape survivors with access to medical and mental health services, even if they are too afraid to testify against their attackers. Once ratified by the U.S. Attorney General, all corrections facilities—including private contractors like the one mentioned in the article—will be required to comply with the standards or they lose a portion of their federal funding.
Californians should support quick ratification of the standards, for the safety of prisoners here and elsewhere.
Lovisa Stannow, Just Detention International