Wednesday 26 January 2011

Justice Department Confirms Appalling Human Rights Crisis: 216,600 Inmates Sexually Abused in One Year

At long last, yesterday the Department of Justice launched its 60-daypublic comment period on proposed national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention. In an extensive report, the Department also released, for the first time, its own estimate of the number of inmates who endured sexual abuse while behind bars in a one-year period: 216,600.

That's right: 216,600. This number is a devastating confirmation of what JDI has claimed for years -- sexual abuse in U.S. detention is a horrific, nationwide human rights crisis.

Let's put 216,600 in perspective: almost 600 prisoners a day are subjected to rape and other forms of sexual abuse while in the government's care. Or, put differently, 25 inmates are abused every hour of every day. That number reflects only the first time each person was victimized during a one-year period; the number ofincidents of sexual abuse is several times higher, as many inmates are assaulted again and again. Prisoner rape survivors continue to be locked up with their assailants, unable to escape -- forced to live in constant fear of another attack, their trauma renewed every time they see their abusers. These are our fellow human beings; men, women, and children who one day will return home to their families and communities.

At JDI, we hope that these shocking numbers will, once and for all, force the corrections community to acknowledge the full extent of the crisis of sexual abuse and rally in favor of strong national standards to end it.

After an initial review, we can say that the revised standards contain both positive points -- such as requiring staff to consider the factors that make someone more vulnerable to abuse when making housing decisions -- as well as negative ones -- such as allowing prison grievance policies to put harsh limits on how much time a survivor has after an assault to file a formal report.

As we continue our analysis of the standards, we will provide you with further updates and insights -- and we encourage all of our supporters and allies to join us in providing feedback on the revised standards. After the conclusion of the 60-day public comment period (March 24) the Department of Justice will review the input it has received and modify the measures before formalizing them as federal regulations. According to the press release accompanying the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Justice Department plans to complete this process before the end of 2011.

Thank you for helping us make sure that the Department of Justice and corrections facilities across the country take seriously their responsibility to end the sexual abuse of inmates.

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