Congressional Leaders, Advocates, and Survivors Call for Urgent Action A Year After Bipartisan Commission Proposed Federal Blueprint to Stop Sexual Abuse Behind Bar
Washington, DC, June 23, 2010. One year after the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released national standards aimed at ending sexual violence in detention, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, advocates, and prisoner rape survivors called for urgent action as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder missed the statutory deadline to formalize the measures.
"It is inexcusable that the Justice Department would miss the deadline to implement these important regulations," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a leading advocate for strong national standards. "After years of careful study and vetting by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, the department is wasting time and taxpayer money on costly, duplicative reviews while the president's budget actually proposes cutting funds to implement these regulations."
The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 -- passed by a unanimous Congress and signed by President George W. Bush -- created the bipartisan Commission to develop standards addressing sexual abuse behind bars. Led by U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton, the Commission released its final recommendations on June 23, 2009. By law, Attorney General Holder was to promulgate a set of "zero tolerance" national standards within one year of that date.
Federal studies estimate that some 100,000 detainees are sexually abused each year in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities. The Commission's research revealed that these attacks are not inevitable but the result of failures in facility management. The recommended standards outline the necessary policies and practices for stopping this violence, including regular audits to hold agencies accountable for mistreatment.
"I repeatedly reported the abuse I experienced, but officials took no real actions to protect me," said Scott Howard-Smith, a prisoner rape survivor. "People in prison constantly face the same horrible situation I faced. The Attorney General has it in his power to keep this from happening to others."
Just Detention International assembled and leads the Raising the Bar Coalition, a partnership of more than 60 organizations, from all points on the political spectrum, including leading progressive advocacy organizations and conservative faith-based groups, united in support of strong national standards to address sexual assault in detention.
Once the Attorney General issues final standards, the regulations will immediately be binding on facilities run by the Bureau of Prisons and other federal agencies. States will have one year to establish their compliance or risk losing five percent of their corrections-related federal funding.
"Every day that the Attorney General fails to implement these recommendations, men, women, and youth in detention will continue to get raped, even though we know how to end this type of abuse," said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International.