Matt Kelley, 300 American Prisoners Will Be Raped Today, criminaljustice.change.org blog, August 29, 2010
Today, 300 prisoners in the United States will be raped. And the Department of Justice continues to stall on doing anything about it.
A report released yesterday by the DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that approximately 88,500 prisoners were raped in 2009 — and the advocacy organization Just Detention International says this estimate is guaranteed to be low due to underreporting. The number is certainly higher than 100,000 they say.
And as we've written here before, the government has been dragging its feet far too long on fixes to this problem.In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, launching a study and — hopefully — eventual reforms. Last year, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission recommended a sensible set of reforms that would sharply reduce the number of sexual assaults in American prisons. But Attorney General Eric Holder says he needs at least until the fall to send proposed standards to the White House Office of Management and Budgets. It'll clearly be 2011 before any rules are actually put into place. By then, another 100,000 Americans will have suffered needless sexual assault.
These standards aren't rocket science — they include increased electronic monitoring, staff training and external audits — any cost they carry will be well worth the price. As Just Detention International's Lovisa Stannow and David Kaiser point out in a post yesterday at the New York Review of Books, these reforms will make prisons safer overall for both prisoners and corrections officers.
Please join me in calling on Holder to move quickly to enact these simple, effective standards that will make prison safer for everyone. When juries and judges sentence defendants to prolonged confinement for their crimes, assault is part of the punishment.