On March 10, 2010, the Department of Justice opened a 60-day public comment period on national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention. Released last June by a bipartisan federal commission, these common-sense measures have the potential to help end sexual abuse in detention. But the standards are opposed by some powerful corrections leaders. These officials argue that it is too expensive to stop prisoner rape, and they seem to have a great deal of influence over the Department of Justice.
Send a letter below that will be entered into the official record as a public comment urging the Attorney General to enact strong standards to end sexual abuse behind bars.
As Congress recognized when it unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, sexual abuse in detention is also preventable. The standards under review have the potential to become the most important tool so far in the effort to end this terrible abuse. But every day that we don't have these measures in place, hundreds of men, women, and children will be raped behind bars -- even though we know how to keep them safe.
No matter how big or how small, all corrections facilities must institute basic policies and practices to keep inmates safe. The final standards should include a broad definition of prisoner rape. Whatever form sexual abuse takes, it is always wrong; unchecked harassment frequently leads to more serious abuse. And I caution against letting cost be an excuse for weakening the standards. Morally, we must end the rape of those we detain; fiscally, it is a sound investment of tax dollars to do so, as it will save corrections agencies millions of dollars in litigation and medical costs.
I encourage you to defer to the expertise relied upon by the Commission in its exhaustive research and review process, and not to duplicate its efforts. If the standards are not implemented swiftly and fully, we will have missed a historic opportunity to address one of this nation's most urgent human rights crises.
I ask that you enter these comments into the public record for Docket No. OAG-131.