Why the Prison Rape Act Isn't Working, The Daily Beast, August 26, 2010

Despite Congress passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003—legislation that, among other things, attempted to facilitate a panel of experts that would create national standards for detecting, preventing, reducing, and punishing sexual abusers behind bars—well over 10,000 prison inmates are raped every year. That's because PREA's standards aren't being held up. Apparently the new rules shouldn't “impose substantial additional costs compared to the costs presently expended by federal, state, and local prison authorities,” Attorney General Eric Holder explained. Finances, in other words, are what's stopping the government—and Holder, who has no plans to commission a study of the benefits of reducing prisoner rape—from acting further. “Prisoner rape is far more a legal and moral issue than a financial one,” Lovisa Stannow and David Kaiser argue in The New York Review of Books. “Since cost considerations are impeding reform, however, it is worth taking a closer look at the true financial implications of sexual abuse behind bars.” Worth looking, indeed. If the numbers are any indication, such a commission could make a big difference.

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