Matt Kelley, Tell the White House to Stop Delaying Action on Prison Rape, change.org, Criminal Justice Blog, June 25, 2010
This week marked another lost opportunity for the Obama administration, as the Justice Department missed a long-looming deadline to address prison rape.
As we've written before, we knew this day was coming — Attorney General Eric Holder had previously announced that he planned to miss this deadline by as much as a year. But giving the public a heads-up doesn't make this policy failure okay. The federal government has already spent six years studying the issue of prison rape and developing a plan to reduce it. We have that plan. We need to implement it. Tell Holder to make reforms to address prison rape a priority now.
Maybe Holder would like to explain his delay directly to someone like Kimberly Yates, who was repeatedly sexually assaulted while she served a federal drug sentence. Like many of the 100,000 other people victimized by sexual assault in American prisons each year, Yates' assault was made much worse by the fact that officials knew what was happening, but failed to act.
"What makes my case especially alarming," she wrote, "is the fact that the Bureau of Prisons was put on notice about this officer but continued to allow (the rapist) to work in that position, knowing what he had done and that he could do it to someone else. The standards must address this."
It's been seven years since Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and a year since the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission recommended a sensible set of reforms that would sharply reduce the number of sexual assaults in American prisons. Still, the Department of Justice is stalling, and the rapes continue.
Why? The administration points to cost as one barrier to implementation of these reforms, and is currently spending another $1.3 million on a cost projection analysis from consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The advocacy organization Just Detention International is concerned that costs are being inflated to stonewall real changes, but has been unsuccessful in learning the details of the government's contract with Booz Allen.
But Congress has studied this issue already for over six years. It's time to stop studying and start making real change.
The voices for reform are growing louder. On Wednesday, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) declared that despite "years of careful study and vetting by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission," the Justice Department is "wasting time and taxpayer money on costly, duplicative reviews, while the president's budget actually proposes cutting funds to implement these regulations."
Indeed. Join Wolf and thousands of Americans in calling on the Justice Department to quit making excuses and take action now.