Stop Prisoner Rape Hails Passage of Historic Law in California

September 8, 2005

SACRAMENTO, CA - On September 7, the California Senate and Assembly passed the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act (AB 550), taking the state’s first major step toward becoming a national leader in the fight to end prisoner rape.

“The passage of this law is a significant milestone for California, finally giving this all-too-common human rights violation the attention it deserves in our state,” said Lovisa Stannow, Acting Executive Director of Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR), a Los Angeles-based national human rights organization.

AB 550 seeks to protect all inmates from sexual abuse while held in detention facilities operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The bill also establishes an Office of the Sexual Abuse in Detention Ombudsperson to monitor the prevention of and response to sexual abuse that occurs in CDCR facilities.

AB 550 is specifically designed to assist California in complying with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003. PREA was the first-ever federal legislation addressing prisoner rape. It was passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2003.

While there are few reliable statistics on prisoner rape, studies have estimated that one in five male inmates have been sexually abused, usually by another inmate. Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff, reach as high as one in four in some facilities.

“We urge Governor Schwarzenegger to take the final step and sign this bill into law – as President Bush did with PREA – making this important legislative commitment a reality in California’s corrections facilities,” Stannow added.