Department of Justice Solicits Public Comments on Prisoner Rape Standards

Basic provisions to end sexual abuse in detention move forward

Washington, DC, March 10, 2010. In an important step to implement the U.S. Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), as of today the Department of Justice is soliciting public comments on the recommended Standards for the Prevention, Detection, Response, and Monitoring of Sexual Abuse in Detention. Developed by a bipartisan commission created under PREA, these recommendations are the product of years of input from corrections officials, criminal justice experts, advocates, and others. They have the potential to become the most important tool so far in the effort to end sexual abuse behind bars. The public comment period will run until May 10, 2010.

Notably, today's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also states that the Attorney General is seeking to eliminate a regulation that bars the use of Victims of Crime Act funds to assist incarcerated prisoner rape victims. Just Detention International applauds the Department of Justice for recognizing that incarcerated victims should be able to receive the treatment and rehabilitative services available to rape victims in the community.

Although PREA stipulates that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder take no more than one year to review and formalize the standards, which were released on June 23, 2009, it is clear that Holder will not meet that deadline. This delay is due, in part, to a problematic cost projection study currently underway, contracted to Booz Allen Hamilton. The study does not take into account the dramatic benefits -- in both fiscal and human terms -- of implementing the standards.

"Any considerations of the cost of sparing men, women, and children the devastation of rape must be understood in light of the dramatic benefits of doing so -- to prisoners, to corrections systems, and to society as a whole," said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International. "When the government removes someone's liberty, it takes on an absolute responsibility to protect that person from abuse."

Just Detention International seeks to ensure government accountability for prisoner rape; to change ill-informed public attitudes about sexual violence in detention; and to promote access to resources for those who have survived such abuse.

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