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 firstname.lastname@example.org.