AFP, U.S. rights groups say prison rape rules not enough, Luxembourg News - news352, March 29, 2011
Activist groups said Tuesday a new government effort aimed at stopping prison rape fails to adequately address the problem of more than 200,000 sexual assaults in US detention facilities.
At a news conference on the issue, Cynthia Totten of the rights group Just Detention International said the administration of President Barack Obama has "watered down" the recommendations of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which was established in 2003 and made its final report in 2009.
Pat Nolan, a member of the commission who is also vice chairman of the volunteer group Prison Fellowship, disputed claims that the recommendations are too costly to implement.
Nolan said the Department of Justice plans would "significantly weaken the standards that will hold prison officials accountable for eliminating rapes in their prison."
Critics of the new rules say the government removed limits on cross-gender pat searches and viewing of inmates using the toilet or shower -- situations that can often lead to sexual assaults.
Jesselyn McCurdy of the American Civil Liberties Union said that under these guidelines, victim often "have to report to the very person they have been assaulted by."
The protests come at the end of a public comment period for new rules being proposed by the Justice Department to implement the commission's recommendations.
A recent survey by the Justice Department noted some 216,000 rapes and sexual assaults in 2008 in corrections facilities, including 17,000 in juvenile detention centers. The numbers were well above the figures for complaints filed.