As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ending Prison Rape

Being sentenced to prison is supposed to be the punishment. People who commit crimes should not be subject to another crime, the crime of rape, as a consequence of their incarceration. It's brutal, cruel and wrong. Too often, corrections facilities look the other way at this practice, thinking wrongly that it maintains order among their populations. I'm heartened that a commission has offered concrete steps for corrections officials to reduce and eventually eliminate prison rape.

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.

"If you have a zero-tolerance policy on prison rape and it is known from the highest ranks that this will not be tolerated and there will be consequences for it, that goes a long way in sending a message," said U.S District Judge Reggie B. Walton, the commission chairman. "Just because people have committed crimes and are in prison, that doesn't mean that part of their punishment is being sexually abused while in detention."

These recommendations from the panel go to the Attorney General, who has a year to create national standards. Our jails are a mess, and reducing the brutal crime of rape will start us down the road of rehabilitating them.

And I'm pleased to have an ally in Eli Lehrer of the National Review. There's no reason for prison rape to ever be a partisan issue.

The federal report’s conclusions — a zero-tolerance policy, more direct monitoring, and the like — almost are all common sense. State, local, and federal governments should take immediate legislative and administrative action to implement nearly everything in the report. (Most of the practices are already commonplace in the federal and better-run state systems.) Although giving trial lawyers more business rarely makes sense, Congress may also want to reconsider laws that make it very difficult for prisoners to sue prison authorities absent concrete evidence of physical harm. It’s quite possible that many legitimate prison-rape claims get thrown out of court under current laws. And prison rape needs to stop.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but what the guy from the Competitive Enterprise Institute said.

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