Press Release: Justice Department Hearings on Sexual Abuse in Prison
Review Panel on Prison Rape to hold hearings with best and worst performing prisons, highlighting that sexual abuse in detention is preventable -- a matter of good management
Washington, DC, April 26, 2011. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at least 216,600 inmates were sexually abused in prisons, jails, and youth detention facilities in 2008 alone. However, while many prisons across the country are plagued by rape, others are virtually free from sexual victimization.
Today and tomorrow, the Department of Justice Review Panel on Prison Rape is holding public hearings to address the problem of sexual violence in detention -- questioning representatives from federal and state prisons with the highest and the lowest levels of sexual abuse. These hearings are based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-2009.
"The Review Panel hearings are an opportunity to identify what's working in the prisons where inmates report no sexual violence, and what's not working in facilities where such abuse is rampant," said Lovisa Stannow, Just Detention International's Executive Director. "Some prisons have strong managers and good policies in place and they are able to keep their inmates safe. Others fail miserably at protecting the men and women in their charge. The dramatic difference between good and bad prisons makes clear that sexual abuse in detention is absolutely preventable."
Several of the worst performing prisons are facilities from which JDI receives a steady stream of letters from inmates: men and women who describe horrific assaults. A prisoner at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Virginia who was sexually abused by a male officer wrote:
"I feel passed over like roadkill. I feel as if my pleas for help are being shuffled within an internal cesspool of corruption and that I will not be helped."
Representatives of Fluvanna will testify before the Review Panel today, Tuesday.
An inmate at the Allred Unit in Texas, one of the men's prisons with the highest levels of sexual abuse in the country, wrote to JDI:
"It has become clear to me that many of our problems on this Unit lie directly with the administration, which explains why grievance systems, letters, and other pleas for help are falling on deaf ears. PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] is our only hope to force Texas to stop allowing prisoners to be raped, abused, extorted, sold and bought as gang sex slaves."
Representatives of Allred will testify before the Review Panel tomorrow, Wednesday.
The Review Panel hearings underscore the preventability of sexual abuse in detention. They also highlight the massive failure of today's criminal justice system in protecting the basic human rights of inmates. With more than 216,600 prisoners suffering sexual victimization in detention every year, it is clear that U.S. detention facilities urgently need strong, binding standards, requiring them to protect inmates in their charge. Such standards were developed by the bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, as mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and presented to Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2009.
"Since then, for nearly two years now, Holder and his team have engaged in a protracted and secretive review of the PREA standards," said Stannow. "These standards are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to end the rape and sexual abuse of hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. It would be a tragedy if Holder fails to take that opportunity."
--The Review Panel hearings will be held at the Office of Justice Programs, Main Conference Room, Third Floor, 810 7th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20531.
--More information on the Review Panel hearings is available here.
--The Bureau of Justice Statistics report can be found here.
--Just Detention International's public comments on the national standards are here.
--The New York Review of Books article "Prison Rape and the Government" can be found here.