Department of Justice Public Hearings:
Unique Opportunity for Public Scrutiny of Sexual Abuse in Detention
Washington, D.C., March 10, 2008. Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR), an international human rights organization, welcomes the upcoming public hearings of the Department of Justice Review Panel on Prison Rape. These hearings constitute a unique opportunity to scrutinize publicly the operations of state and federal prisons where inmates report especially high rates of sexual violence, or no sexual abuse at all.
The first hearing will be held in Washington, D.C., on March 11-14, 2008, and the second one in Houston, Texas, on March 27-28, 2008.
The corrections officials who will testify at the Review Panel hearings are drawn from prisons highlighted in a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report from last December, “Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates, 2007.” The report, the first of its kind, was based on a nationwide survey asking inmates directly and anonymously about their experiences behind bars. The BJS report found that 4.5 percent (or 60,500) of the more than 1.3 million inmates held at state and federal prisons had been sexually abused in the previous year alone.
As stipulated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), the two prisons with the lowest rates and the three prisons with the highest rates of reported abuse in the BJS survey will be called to public hearings of the Review Panel. However, because five of the ten prisons with the highest rates of abuse were facilities run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), the Review Panel will hold a separate hearing in Houston, Texas, highlighting that state’s troubled prison system.
In Washington, D.C. the Review Panel will focus on three prisons with a high incidence of sexual abuse: Charlotte Correctional Institution, Florida Department of Corrections; Rockville Correctional Institution, Indiana Department of Corrections; and Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, Nebraska Department of Corrections. The Washington, D.C. hearing will also highlight two prisons at which inmates reported no sexual abuse: Ironwood State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; and Schuylkill Federal Corrections Institution, Federal Bureau of Prisons. In Houston, the Review Panel will focus on TDCJ’s Estelle, Clements, Coffield, Allred, and Mountain View Units, all of which were among the ten U.S. prisons with the highest rates of abuse.
SPR has suggested questions to be asked of the corrections officials who will testify at the Review Panel hearings. In addition, at the Texas hearing, SPR staff will present testimony from survivors of sexual abuse who are currently incarcerated at TDCJ facilities, highlighting systemic problems as well as devastating personal experiences.
For more information, or to schedule an interview with SPR staff or with a survivor of sexual abuse, please contact Melissa Rothstein at 202-580-6971 or 718-873-4036 (cell).