Victims of Prison Rape Rally for Legislation
June 25, 2003
Former prisoners who were raped while serving their sentences gathered Tuesday on Capitol Hill to drum up support for legislation that seeks to hold prison facilities accountable for sexual assaults of inmates.Adapted from:
The Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2003 would require the Justice Department to conduct annual surveys to determine the prevalence of rape in federal, state and county prisons and jails. It also would create a commission to hold hearings and recommend national standards for reducing and eliminating prison rape. Those standards, if adopted by the attorney general, would apply to federal prisons; however, states wanting Justice Department grants would have to comply with them as well. The bill also would require prison accreditation organizations to examine prison rape prevention practices. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the legislation after it returns from its July 4th holiday break. Similar legislation introduced last session died when negotiations with the Justice Department stalled.
"It's widely known that sexual assaults go on in prisons all the time. What we've heard from these [victims] is that it goes on in many circumstances, either perpetrated by government employees or with government employees facilitating or looking the other way," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a bill sponsor. Other sponsors are Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.). A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).
The legislation has backing from Stop Prisoner Rape, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group; Prison Fellowship Ministries, a group headed by former Nixon White House aide Chuck Colson; and others. Prison Fellowship said modest estimates indicate as many as 22 percent of inmates are raped while in prison, many of whom are repeatedly sexually assaulted. The majority of victims are juveniles and mentally ill inmates, the organization said.
06.24.03; Suzanne Gamboa