Stopping prison rape: What’s it going to take?
March 24, 2011
Prison rape is no joke, though it’s been a staple of innuendo and humor about incarceration for many years. In fact, it’s an epidemic that has united unlikely allies in an effort to address it, hopefully, to stop it. The U.S. Justice Department’s statistics suggest that in 2008, more than 200,000 people were sexually assaulted, including more than 17,000 in juvenile detention – that works out to almost 600 people a year, 25 an hour. And most were abused by corrections staff, not other inmates. In 2003, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which created a commission to study the problem and make recommendations. The Commission’s report was delivered to Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2009, and he missed the 12-month deadline to revise the recommendations and issue binding federal standards. Now those standards have been published as proposed rules, but they differ from the commission’s findings in significant ways. Joining us to discuss prison rape, the effort to end it, and the proposed federal rules are BRENDA V. SMITH, a member of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, professor at Washington College of Law and Principal Investigator for the National Institute of Corrections Project on Addressing Prison Rape; MELISSA ROTHSTEIN, senior program director for Just Detention International, a national advocacy group dedicated to ending prison rape; and KIMBERLY YATES, a successful Kentucky businesswoman who survived sexual assault in a federal prison in Philadelphia in 2003.