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Prison Rapes Spreading Deadly Diseases

July 29, 2002

Rape has become so common in US federal and state prisons that it could have deadly consequences for the inmate population as well as the public at large, according to experts. Prison rape has been associated with the spread of diseases such as AIDS and TB. Congress plans to look at the issue this week.

"The AIDS incidence within prisons is alarmingly high," said Pat Nolan, president of Justice Fellowship, which works to reform the criminal justice system. He noted 95 percent of people in prison will eventually be released, so if they contract AIDS or other diseases while incarcerated they will be a tremendous burden to society. A major part of the problem is prison officials who condone rape among inmates, he said, which may be used to punish or control prisoners.

"Rape and HIV in prison is eight to ten times as high as in the general population," said Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prison Rape. The people most likely to be raped in prisons are nonviolent and first-time offenders: those most likely to be released into the general population and pose a disease risk, she said. AIDS, herpes and other STDs have been spread in prisons, and hepatitis C is epidemic in certain prisons, Stemple said. One in five men have been sexually assaulted in prison, and one in ten have been raped. Among women inmates, the rate of sexual abuse can be as high as 27 percent in some prisons, and some inmates have become pregnant after being raped by prison guards.

Last month bi-partisan legislation called the Prison Rape Reduction Act was introduced in both the Senate and the House. It would establish a national commission to set standards for reducing and eliminating prison rape. Federal prisons would have to adopt these standards and state prisons could only opt out of them if their state legislature votes not to participate. The Justice Department would be required to conduct an annual review of prison rape to determine where the incidence is unusually high. States with prisons within the worst third would have to explain their situation before a review panel.

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Adapted from:
Washington Times
07.26.02; United Press International

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
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HIV Prevention & the Incarcerated


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