JDI IN THE NEWS - 2010

Pam Spaulding, More fed foot-dragging: Obama AG Holder sits on proposals to reduce sexual abuse and rape in prison, Pam's House Blend Blog, August 27th

Yesterday a study was released by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that estimates that at least 88,500 adults held in U.S. prisons and jails were sexually abused at their current facility in the past year.

What is astonishing is that the Obama DOJ has been studying and reviewing proposals to reduce sexual violence in detention by establishing national standards for staff sexual misconduct for 14 months. Nothing has been finalized and each day more inmates are being raped, harassed and abused while Attorney General Eric Holder doesn't act, defying a congressional deadline set national standards to reduce this criminal activity. Look at what is going on (via Just Detention International):

According to the BJS, 4.4 percent of prison inmates and 3.1 percent of jail inmates reported having experienced one or more incidents of sexual victimization by other inmates and/or staff at their current facility in the preceding 12 months. While some suffered a single assault, others were raped repeatedly: on average, victims were abused three to five times over the course of the year. The survey did not include minors held in these facilities, but in a similar BJS report released in January 2010, more than 12 percent of youth in juvenile detention reported sexual abuse, or one in eight.

JDI has testimony of just a few of the egregious cases of abuse.

Inmates with a history of sexual abuse, and those who identify as gay or transgender are exceptionally vulnerable, and JDI hears from such inmates on a daily basis. In another letter received by JDI last week, James, an openly gay prisoner in Michigan who has been raped more than 20 times by numerous inmates over the course of several years, asked, "Do you know what it's like to see their faces each day? Seeing the look they give me? Knowing that they smile and laugh..."

In both men's and women's facilities, staff perpetrators tend to be of the opposite sex from the victim. "Allowing staff unlimited access to inmates of the opposite sex -- including when they are in states of undress -- encourages sexual abuse. Yet, such cross-gender supervision remains standard practice in most U.S. prisons and jails," said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International.

Another inmate who wrote to JDI last week, Nathan in Wyoming, described an officer fondling his genitalia while passing out medication. A nurse who observed the groping did nothing, simply stating, "I know I didn't see what I just saw." After reporting the incident, Nathan was transferred to another prison. He has not received information about the outcome of the investigation.

..."Sexual abuse in detention is a stain on our society," said Stannow. "Every day that the Attorney General doesn't finalize the national standards is another day of anguish among prisoner rape survivors, of preventable safety breaches in prisons and jails, and of significant spending of taxpayers' money on medical treatment, investigations, and litigation that could have been avoided."

And what about the standards recommended by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)?

These standards include limitations on cross-gender supervision. They also call for staff training and inmate education, the provision of medical and mental health treatment to sexual abuse victims, and regular independent, external audits to hold agencies accountable for failures to keep inmates safe from abuse. By law, Attorney General Eric Holder had until June 23, 2010 to ratify binding standards, but he missed this deadline and no new date has been set. Once the Attorney General issues final standards, they will be immediately binding on federal facilities. States and localities will have one year to get into compliance or risk losing five percent of their corrections-related federal funding.

And the clock is ticking as the abuse continues...



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