PRESS RELEASES - 2002

Stop Prisoner Rape sues to protect its right to speak out on behalf of prisoners

July 19, 2002

LOS ANGELES - Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) is suing the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections over a new law that criminalizes its communication with Arizona state prisoners and punishes prisoners if information about them appears on its website.

The ACLU is representing SPR and two other plaintiffs in their claim that the enforcement of Arizona’s House Bill 2376 violates their first and fourteenth amendments and severely hampers their advocacy work on behalf of prisoners.

SPR along with The Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CCADP), Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP) seek to invalidate a state law that bans all information about Arizona prisoners from the internet.

SPR, a nonprofit human rights organization dedicated to ending sexual violence against men, women, and youth in all forms of detention, posts survivor stories, comments, and excerpts from prisoners’ letters on its website.

“Prisoner rape is a serious and widespread human rights abuse that is shrouded in secrecy,” said Stemple. “The stories and information we publish on our website lift the curtain on this abuse, letting survivors know they are not alone, and giving the public important information about its prisons.”

SPR regularly sends fact sheets, survivor stories, and referrals printed from its website to survivors who are still incarcerated. The law, which bars prisoners from corresponding with a "communication service provider" and disciplines prisoners if any person outside prison walls accesses a provider or service website at a prisoner's request, would make this part of SPR’s work illegal.

“For many prisoners, we are the only source of information about surviving sexual assault, and we rely on the internet,” says Lara Stemple, executive director of SPR.

“Men and women who have been raped in prison are often too ashamed to speak out,” explains Stemple. Because long-term consequences of prisoner rape may include post-traumatic stress disorder, rape trauma syndrome, substance abuse, and suicide, linking survivors to others who have lived through the experience is critical.

Stemple insists, “SPR’s website gives survivors a chance to connect with one another, and when you are isolated, ashamed, and afraid, that connection can be a matter of life and death.”