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June 23, 2009

Major report on combatting prison rape finally released

As detailed in this Washington Post article, a long awaited report from the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has finally been released:

Nearly six years after President George W. Bush signed legislation to reduce prison rape, a blue-ribbon commission is calling on corrections officers to identify vulnerable inmates, offer better medical care and allow stricter monitoring of their facilities.

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, in a study to be released today, affirms that more than 7.3 million people in prisons, jails and halfway houses across the nation have "fundamental rights to safety, dignity and justice."

The number of rapes committed by detention staff members and other inmates remains a subject of intense scrutiny.  A 2007 survey of state and federal prisoners estimated that 60,500 inmates had been abused the previous year. But experts say that the stigma of sexual assault often leads to underreporting of incidents and denial by many of the victims.  Too often, the report says, sexual abuse of prisoners is viewed as a source of jokes rather than a problem with destructive implications for public health, crime rates and successful reentry of prisoners into the community....

The panel hosted hearings and visited 11 corrections sites before issuing its report.  Among the strongest recommendations: Staff members should be subject to robust background checks and given training, which could help victims of sexual assault secure emergency medical and mental health treatment.

Panel members are preparing to send their report to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who will have one year to prepare mandatory national standards.  The recommendations will not bind state corrections officers, but states that do not adopt them will have their criminal justice funding cut, panel members said.

The full report and other related NPREC materials are available at this link, and the report's executive summary is available here.

June 23, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 23, 2009 9:14:59 AM

To my knowledge, even the most rabid law-and-order fanatic has never called for vulnerable prisoners to be raped as part of their punishment. Shame on us all --liberal and conservative--for tolerating this barbarity.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 23, 2009 10:54:45 AM

Prison rape is a bad thing all the way around. It spreads disease, violence etc. Plus, how can we expect people to be rehabilitated if we tolerate this might makes right barbarism. The other issue is that it justifies violence on the part of a victim. People have the right to kill to prevent a rape, and if the jailers won't do anything, the victims have the right to kill their attackers.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 11:43:50 AM

It took six years after George W. Bush signed the law, and Holder is given one year to do something about it. With TV hosts such as Nancy Grace, and the others on HLN implanting hysterical hatred and ignorance into the minds of an uneducated viewing audience, how's about we let those tv hosts stand in for inmates until these better laws get implemented?
Nancy Grace once showed the news of a home being burnt down by vigilantes, burning up a mother and her newborn baby, because they were the wife and infant daughter of a man on the Register. One of Nancy's "guest commentators" said, "Well, thats what they deserve, being the wife and child of a man on the Sex Rigister." That is a nationally broadcasted tv show, and they get on there every night and rant these obscenities. Nancy Grace makes a lot of money. There are evil, evil people in this world.

Posted by: DLJ | Jun 23, 2009 11:47:08 AM

The issue is not whether some prisoners "deserve" prison rape. I certainly would shed no tears for some of these heinous criminals being treated as they treated others. But that's not the point. We simply cannot tolerate this brutality.

One interesting thing--a few years ago a human rights organization did a report on prison rape and noted that race was a factor in who was victimized--strange that this report didn't delve into that.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 12:03:17 PM

Prison rape is prison malpractice. They have total control of the bodies of the prisoners. Torts should solve the problem.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 23, 2009 12:11:26 PM

I get many letters from prisoners wanting to sue, but tort remedies are for the most part futile here; the cases would bankrupt lawyers given the myriad procedural and substantive hurdles by PLRA, barriers to investigation in prison, and, in general, the very low chance of prevailing.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 23, 2009 12:49:17 PM

Mr. Levine, what is your view on why the racial aspect of prison rape was ignored in this report--is it, contrary to earlier reports, simply not an issue?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 1:01:26 PM

Federalist, I don't know the answer to your question. I am familiar with earlier reports documenting a higher prevalance of black on white rape. Whether this is true, and, if so, why it should be true, I don't know. I think the question is important and should definitley be addressed.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 23, 2009 1:28:59 PM

a pretty big miss on their part, huh?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 1:30:42 PM

Doug, what are your views of the racial issues raised by the prison rape phenomenon?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 1:58:43 PM

Speaking of rent seeking superstars, here's an example of a story that doesn't get to the crux of the story until the last few paragraphs. Extortion?

L.A. County Sheriff's Department suspends DNA testing in sexual assault cases

Facing nearly $500 million in budget cuts, county officials made it clear that there was no money to be had.

"That was never realistic," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. "He's got a $2-billion budget. If this is his No. 1 priority, he should be able to find resources within his own department."

Sheila Williams, an analyst with the county's chief executive office, added that sheriff's officials never alerted anyone in her office that there could come a time when funds would be gone and testing suspended.

Posted by: George | Jun 23, 2009 2:04:31 PM

I tend to assume that racial issues impact and infect all aspects of the criminal justice system, and thus I would not be surprised that there are racial dimension to prison rape. That said, I could fully understand a decision by NPREC to actively seek to avoid racial issues in a report that clearly took a VERY long time to produce and is itself long overdue.

Do you think, federalist, that an intense investigation of racial issues in prison rape couls/would/should significantly impact the recommendations in the NPREC report?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 23, 2009 2:08:15 PM

I think, Doug, that the bottom line is that if people are being victimized on account of race, that is, in our society, important. Race is examined everywhere else, and it's curious that it's not examined here.

I find it amazing that a law prof would proffer an excuse not to go where the facts lead.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 2:16:07 PM

The study does consider race:

Sexual abuse incident reviews

The facility treats all instances of sexual abuse as critical incidents to be examined by a team of upper management officials, with input from line supervisors, investigators, and medical/mental health practitioners. The review team evaluates each incident of sexual abuse to identify any policy, training, or other issues related to the incident that indicate a need to change policy or practice to better prevent, detect, and/or respond to incidents of sexual abuse. The review team also considers whether incidents were motivated by racial or other group dynamics at the facility.

Posted by: George | Jun 23, 2009 2:40:49 PM

George, that's in the "standards", not the factual report. Actually, this makes it a little more odd--they were thinking about racial motivation in assaults, yet didn't evaluate it when digging into the phenomenon.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 3:06:44 PM

"That said, I could fully understand a decision by NPREC to actively seek to avoid racial issues in a report that clearly took a VERY long time to produce and is itself long overdue."
I still cannot believe you actually wrote that. Stunning. Is the ostrich your favorite bird?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 3:52:51 PM

Federalist, please explain your apparent obsession with interracial prison rape. Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: CN | Jun 23, 2009 4:28:01 PM

It's simply amazing to me that race, which seems to permeate everything about scholarship and studies (and usually used to slant the story) is oddly missing here. Can you explain it? Or is the cheap ad hominem shot where you're going to leave it? I wouldn't be surprised if you left it--you're obviously not the sharpest tool in the drawer.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 4:39:28 PM

By the way, CN, I am absolutely appalled by prison rape. To the extent there is a racial component, and there almost certainly is, understanding that can help solve this problem. I am guessing, of course, that you think prison rape a laughing matter. It's not.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 23, 2009 4:43:22 PM

Michael: What do you think of a civil rights approach, rather than torts? Rape is an extra-judicial corporal punishment, with scienter on the part of prison authorities. Lawyers may get fees if they prevail. The class is huge if torts ever works. Those obstacles of the PLRA apply to frivolous demands. Yes, you should thoroughly exhaust all administrative remedies if you did not get ice cream on the scheduled day. However, this class tort is a constitutional one, and the defendant should not be the one to judge its validity in administrative procedure.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 23, 2009 6:39:17 PM

Shouldn't it be 123Anal. After all, it's that a fate worse than death?

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 23, 2009 9:23:39 PM

Why do you think they call it a con job? If you want to interview (or 'survey')prison inmates, send in a professional who knows how to cut throught the bull, rather than some S. Dakota Professor nitwit who gets her concepts of the penal system through Hollywood movies.

John W. Sawyer III

Posted by: John | Oct 22, 2010 10:27:28 AM

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