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Demand that the Attorney General approve national standards to address prison rape

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The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA, P.L. 108-79) was enacted by Congress to address the problem of sexual abuse of persons in the custody of U.S. correctional agencies.  The national standards still await the Attorney General's approval.  Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had one year to publish a final rule; he missed the deadline, and has not indicated when he will promulgate the regulations.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics claims that many youth corrections administrators consider staff sexual abuse of detained youth to be largely consensual, or the result of youth manipulation. The Department of Justice perpetuates that view by insisting that most staff sexual abuse of juveniles is not "violent."  But prison official have full control over the prisoners and every act of sexual contact between a staff member and a detainee, under any circumstances, is legally a crime in all 50 states. If the detainee is a minor, it is also child abuse.  Prison officials have complete control over inmate’s lives- the influence when they are paroled, whether they are placed in solitary confinement, they can deny basic hygiene items, and they can place inmates with violent or even sexual predators.  There is no possible consensual sexual relationship between juveniles and staff under the conditions of imprisonment.

"In fact," Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International said  "the BJS estimated that almost one in eight kids behind bars had been sexually victimized during a 12-month period, the vast majority of them -- 80 percent -- by staff whose job it is to keep them safe. Many endured repeated abuse, often more than ten times, and frequently by multiple perpetrators.”

Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana, Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Tennessee, and Corsicana Residential Treatment Center in Texas have the highest rates of prison rape with  rates of abuse between 26 and 36 percent of youth being victimized in the preceding 12 months. 

Institutional culture and proper staff training on strong professional boundaries are both important in stopping prison rape.  Facilities that focus on treating youth with dignity and facilitating their healthy development are safer and more successful.  The Missouri Department of Youth Services is nationally recognized for the therapeutic model followed in its facilities.


Read more about The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003

Major provisions of PREA include:

Development of standards for detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape; Collection and dissemination of information on the incidence of prison rape; and Award of grant funds to help state and local governments implement the purposes of the Act.

The Act applies to all public and private institutions that house adult or juvenile offenders and is also relevant to community-based agencies.

On June 23, 2009, the PREA Commission released their final report and proposed standards to prevent, detect, respond to and monitor sexual abuse of incarcerated and detained individuals. These proposed standards have been submitted to the President, Congress, and other Federal and state officials. The U.S. Attorney General needs to promulgate national standards on this issue.

The Review Panel's "Report on Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Correctional Facilities" is available at:


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