New Attorney General Must End Sexual Violence in U.S. Jails and Prisons

January 28, 2009, Washington, DC. - Just Detention International (JDI) congratulates Eric Holder on his appointment today as Attorney General, and calls on him to uphold fully his obligation to end sexual violence behind bars.

“Attorney General Holder has rightfully disavowed waterboarding and other forms of torture used in military facilities abroad,” said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International. “Hopefully, he will demand a similar zero-tolerance approach to torture on U.S. soil, including the widespread sexual abuse of prisoners, at the hands of corrections officials and inmates alike.”

Sexual violence in U.S. detention is a serious crime and a nationwide human rights crisis. In a 2007 survey of prisoners across the country, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that 4.5 percent (or 60,500) of the more than 1.3 million inmates held in federal and state prisons had been sexually abused in the previous year alone. A BJS survey in county jails was just as troubling; nearly 25,000 jail detainees reported having been sexually abused in the past six months. Academic research has shown that as many as one in five male and one in four female inmates are subject to sexual violence at some point during their incarceration.

The Attorney General plays a critical role in preventing sexual violence behind bars and in holding agencies and individuals accountable when such abuse occurs. He is responsible for prosecuting individuals who commit sexual assault in federal facilities, as well as state agencies that violate civil rights by allowing abuse in their facilities. As the Attorney General, Holder will also be required to promulgate and enforce the first-ever binding national standards addressing sexual violence in detention, in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003. These standards will be submitted to him by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission in the spring of 2009.

“All people retain the right to be free from sexual abuse, regardless of custody status or criminal history,” said Stannow. “The Attorney General must ensure that rape is never part of anyone’s penalty.”

Just Detention International (JDI) is a human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention. JDI has three core goals for its work: to ensure government accountability for prisoner rape; to transform ill-informed public attitudes about sexual violence in detention; and to promote access to resources for those who have survived this form of abuse.

For more information, please contact JDI’s East Coast Program Director, Melissa Rothstein, at 202-580-6971 or .

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