Reducing Sexual Victimization Behind Bars

Reducing Sexual Victimization Behind Bars

According to a survey done by the Justice Department which questioned former state and local prisoners, nearly one in ten admitted they were sexually victimized at least once in prison by other inmates or prison staff. Sexual victimization was defined within the study as all types of unwanted sexual activity with other inmates, abusive sexual activity with other inmates, and both willing and unwilling sexual activity with staff. (Prisons prohibit sexual contact between inmates and staff, so any sexual activity between the two groups is officially classified as nonconsensual.)

Regulations regarding prison rape have been in the works for years, but shortly after the results of this survey were released, the White House ordered federal, state, and local prisons, jails, and detention facilities to step up the fight against prison rape. These new regulations are effective immediately, requiring these facilities to issue mandatory screenings to detect possible sexual victimization, and then to use that information when making housing and work assignments for inmates. These correctional facilities will also be required to have prevention regulations in place, and to enforce punishment on the inmates and staff members that don’t abide by these new rules. The goal of these new regulations is to reduce sexual assault behind bars. States that don’t adhere to these regulations will face a loss of 5 percent of their Justice Department prison money unless their governor shows that the same amount of money is being used to bring the state into compliance.

In a White House memo regarding the Prison Rape Elimination Act, President Obama said, “Sexual violence, against any victim, is an assault on human dignity and an affront to American values.” Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The standards we establish today reflect the fact that sexual assault crimes committed within our correctional facilities can have devastating consequences for individual victims and for communities far beyond our jails and prisons.”

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