Stop Prisoner Rape Hails Governor's Signing of Historic Law in California
September 22, 2005
SACRAMENTO, CA - Today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the
Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act (AB 550),
which passed the California Legislature on September
7. The legislation, now cited as Chapter 303, Statutes
of 2005, lays the foundation for California, which runs
the largest prison system in the country, to be 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.
We applaud the governor for signing it and legislators
of both parties who supported its passage," said Katherine
Hall-Martinez, a spokesperson for Stop Prisoner Rape
(SPR), a Los Angeles-based national human rights organization.
The legislation's general purpose is to prevent, reduce,
and effectively respond to sexual abuse of inmates and
wards while held in detention facilities operated by
the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
(CDCR). Among the legislation's specific purposes are
that the CDCR do the following:
- Provide inmates and wards with informational handbooks
regarding sexual abuse in detention;
- Adopt specified policies, practices, and protocols
related to the placement of inmates, physical and
mental health care of inmate victims, and investigation
of sexual abuse;
- Ensure accurate data collection concerning sexual
abuse across all institutions which is accessible
to the public; and
- Develop guidelines for the provision of resources
and counseling from outside organizations to inmates
The legislation also creates the Office of the Sexual Abuse in Detention
Ombudsperson to ensure confidential reporting and impartial
resolution of sexual abuse complaints in CDCR facilities.
The law was 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, passed with overwhelming bipartisan
support and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
While there are few reliable statistics on prisoner
rape, studies in the U.S. 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. According to a recent U.S.
Bureau of Justice report, in 2004 alone, 149 California
prisoners stepped forward to report being sexually assaulted,
despite many factors that deter their reports to officials.
"Prisoner rape is a longstanding and ongoing problem
in California's prisons, as it is around the country.
Provided it is fully implemented, this legislation has
the potential to pierce the veil of silence surrounding
prisoner rape and, ultimately, to lower its incidence
in California," Hall-Martinez added.
For more information, please contact Lamar Glover
at 213-384-1400, ext 105.