Texas Nate, AG Eric Holder Can Do Something To Reduce Juvenile Prison Rape, My Direct Democracy Blog, June 2, 2010
This NY Times op-ed explains the stakes:
In 2003, Congress acknowledged the serious problem of rape in the nation’s prisons and created a commission to develop a set of national standards for preventing and punishing these crimes. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission spent five years on the task, holding hearings, visiting prisons, interviewing officials, families, inmates, community groups, advocates, medical organizations, prosecutors, police and others.
It finally finished its work last year and sent a set of rigorous recommendations to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. He now must issue mandatory standards for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and state correctional institutions that receive federal money. Predictably, state and local corrections officials determined to preserve the disastrous status quo are pushing back. Mr. Holder must hold the line.
The commission’s recommendations are sound. They include better screening of guards and more training to recognize and address the signs of sexual assault, better medical and psychiatric care for assault victims, better protection for the most vulnerable, a system that allows prisoners to report rape without facing reprisal and publicly accessible records that would permit rape prevention programs to be independently monitored.
Mr. Holder could have adopted the commission’s standards. Instead, the Justice Department sought comment on the proposals, further delaying the process and increasing the dangers that the reforms will be watered down. Enough is enough.
There will be hearings later this week in Congress on sexual victimization in juvenile facilities. From an early copy of a press release by JustDetention.org that will be put out tomorrow:
Following a federal report that found alarming rates of sexual abuse of detained youth, the Department of Justice Review Panel on Prison Rape is holding public hearings to address the problem, in Washington, DC on June 3-4, 2010.
The Review Panel will focus on agencies highlighted in the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2008-09, released in January 2010: two facilities with low rates of sexual abuse (Fort Bellefontaine Campus – St. Louis, MO; Rhode Island Training School – Cranston, RI) and three with high rates (Juvenile Correctional Facility – Pendleton, IN; Youth Development Center – Woodland Hills, TN; Residential Treatment Center – Corsicana, TX).
The BJS survey, which asked detained youth about sexual victimization, found that more than 12 percent of detainees – almost one in eight – reported suffering at least one incident of abuse at their current facility in the preceding year. In the worst facilities, one in three youth was victimized. Overall, 80 percent of the abuse was perpetrated by staff.
Most prison rape is preventable with low cost, common sense measures. Let's see if Eric Holder has the will to do the right thing.