E-NEWS - 2011

Preventing One Night in Jail from Becoming a Lifetime of Pain

Yesterday we told you about Adam, who was raped repeatedly by other inmates while officials at the Orleans Parish Prison did nothing.

Today, we want to share some good news: there are corrections officials all over the country who are committed to making sure that what happened to Adam will not happen on their watch.

Along with Orleans Parish Prison, the Miami-Dade County Pre-Trial Detention Center was called before the Review Panel on Prison Rape, after government surveys found that it had shockingly high levels of sexual victimization. But rather than quibble over statistics, officials from Miami-Dade focused on what they have done -- and what they still need to do -- to improve inmate safety.

Large city jails tend to be noisy, crowded, and chaotic, with people cycling through for as little as a couple of hours. Straight off the streets, some detainees arrive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, some still bleeding from a fight, and some having been homeless for weeks or months at a time.

Jails are the facilities where most people are held first after being arrested, before being charged or tried, and while awaiting sentencing. People given sentences of less than one year also tend to remain in a local jail, rather than being transferred to a prison. Thus, jails hold precisely those inmates who are most vulnerable to sexual abuse: young, nonviolent, first-time detainees lacking even the most basic prison savvy.

That means that every day, countless people picked up for disorderly conduct, or failure to make bail -- many never charged with a crime -- find that a couple of days in a local jail results in a lifetime of trauma.

But sexual abuse, even in crowded big-city jails, is not inevitable. On the contrary, prisoner rape can be prevented through strong management, sound policies, and proper training. Officials from Miami-Dade County have committed to working with JDI to implement such policies and training at their facilities, making them models for large jails nationwide.

We look forward to building our partnership with Miami-Dade officials to protect the basic right of all detainees to be free from sexual abuse, and give people a fair chance to return to their communities to lead productive lives. 

No matter what crime someone may have committed, rape must not be part of the penalty.

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