PRESS RELEASES - 2002

Stop Prisoner Rape Calls on the Senate Judiciary Committee to Pass the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2002

July 30, 2002

WASHINGTON D.C. - At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Stop Prisoner Rape, a non-profit human rights organization, will advocate for the passage of the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2002, a ground-breaking bill that has attracted an unusual coalition of bipartisan backers.

The bill is designed to eliminate prisoner rape by authorizing a study to document the extent of the problem; and by creating a program of standards and incentives to help corrections officials detect and prevent prison rape.

Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prison Rape (SPR), said, "This legislation is the first serious federal attempt to deal with a human rights crisis that has been virtually ignored in this country."

"SPR has worked on this problem for over two decades, and it's satisfying to see it finally coming to the fore," Stemple said. "Prisoner rape is a serious abuse that is dehumanizing and sometimes deadly. Victims have been left beaten and bloodied, they have suffered long-term psychological harm, and they have contracted HIV."

The Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2002 is sponsored by an unique bipartisan coalition: Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.

"This is something that people on both sides of the aisle can agree on," Stemple said. "Inmates who are sexually abused in prison come out more likely to re-offend. The violence that we allow inside prisons doesn't stop at the prison walls. Its aftermath reaches all of us."

Testifying today will be Linda Bruntmyer, a mother from Texas, whose 16-year-old son Rodney was repeatedly raped while serving time in an adult prison for setting a fire in a dumpster in 1995. Rodney and his mother's pleas for protective custody were repeatedly denied by the corrections officials, who told them Rodney should "just get used to it. It's no big deal. It happens all the time." Rodney hung himself in his cell on the night of January 26, 1996, went into a coma, and died four months later. He was 17.

For Bruntmyer, the moral of the story was tragically simple. "Rape destroys human dignity, it spreads disease, it makes people more angry and violent," she said. "It kills. This is not what we mean when we say justice."

Also scheduled to testify is Robert Dumond, a licensed clinical mental health counselor from Massachusetts and a member of SPR's Board of Advisors who has provided mental health services for crime victims and offenders for more than 30 years.

The effects of prison rape, Dumond has found, are catastrophic - not only for victims, but also for public health and safety. Tolerating prison rape encourages the spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and Hepatitis B and C, he found, diseases which are spread to the general community when prisoners are released.

"U.S. correctional officials have manifested either ignorance, misunderstanding, or more alarmingly, deliberate indifference about this crisis," Dumond said.