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October 28, 2008

Prosecuting prison rape

I just came across this interesting looking pieceon SSRN, titled "Prosecuting Sexual Violence in Correctional Settings: Examining Prosecutors' Perceptions."  Here is the abstract: 

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) is the first piece of federal legislation, which expressly and exclusively addresses sexual abuse of persons in custody. Notwithstanding passage of the Act, there is clear belief, echoed by correctional leaders, that prosecutors are reluctant at best, and unwilling at worst, to prosecute cases of sexual violence in correctional settings. In order to gather information on prosecutor interest in and capacity to prosecute these cases, the National Institute of Corrections Project on Addressing Prison Rape at the Washington College of Law the (the NIC/WCL Project) collected data from state and federal prosecutors.

This article draws on that research and data to examine the perception that prosecutors are unwilling to prosecute cases of sexual violence in custody, discusses barriers to prosecution identified by prosecutors regarding investigating and prosecuting allegations of sexual abuse of persons under correctional supervision, and recommends tools to overcome those barriers.

October 28, 2008 at 03:06 PM | Permalink


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Why would prosecutors want to reduce prison rape? The threat of prison rape is their biggest bargaining chip in threatening defendants with prison sentences. They'll never admit it, but prosecutors count on prison rape widely occurring and widely understood as a consequence of being incarcerated. Why prosecute someone who's already locked up and who is making sure other incarcerated criminals serve hard time (no pun intended)? It makes no sense.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act, which to the layman sounds like a law aimed at eliminating prison rape, does absolutely nothing - it provides no private cause of action to the victims of prison rape, it provides no funding to prosecute prison rapists, it does not increase any penalties or create any new crimes (not that those would be solutions to the problem). All the PREA does is require the prisons to try harder to collect statistics regarding occurrences of prison rape and to set up a "National Prison Rape Reduction Commission" so politicans can say they voted to "create a commission" to study prison rape. Yeah they're on top of the problem.

The bottom line is there's no such thing as a victim who is also locked up in prison. Victim status, the most sought after status in modern day america, is unavailable to the incarcerated.

Posted by: BruceM | Oct 29, 2008 9:25:08 PM

I am a private citizen, but I worked as a Criminal Defense Legal Assistant for a large Public Defender in Oregon. I am appalled every time I here someone make an off hand remark about "being someone's bitch" in reference to someone going to jail. The punishment for convicted people is jail time, not being raped, beaten and generally mistreated every day. We sholdnt wonder why the recidivism rate is so high.

Posted by: Karen | Nov 10, 2008 8:10:53 PM

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