Thursday, June 25, 2009

Report Issues Standards to Eliminate Prison Rape

Yesterday, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released a comprehensive report sharing ways to prevent, detect, respond and monitor sexual abuse in US correction and detention facilities. The report recognizes the primary problems and underlying causes of sexual abuse in detention facilities, and proposes standards which would work to significantly reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse.

This report is a very important first step in the fulfillment of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), signed into law in 2003. As part of the report, the Commission identified groups of at-risk prisoners for sexual abuse- including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The executive summary states, “Research on sexual abuse in correctional facilities consistently document the vulnerability of men and women with non-heterosexual orientation and transgender individuals. A 1982 study in a medium-security men’s facility in California, for example, found the rate of abuse was much higher among gay prisoners (41 percent) than heterosexual prisoners (9 percent).”

In addition to recognizing the very real dangers LGBT people face in correctional facilities, the Commission put forward model standards to reduce the danger. Some of these standards include:

Screening Process. A required screening process to determine factors that increase vulnerability for sexual abuse including “sexual orientation of gay or bisexual, gender nonconformance (e.g., transgender or intersex identity).”

Enhanced Protections. An emphasis on protection, rather than segregation: “Segregation must be a last resort and interim measure only. The Commission also discourages the creation of specialized units for vulnerable groups and specifically prohibits housing prisoners based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity because it can lead to demoralizing and dangerous labeling.”

Cultural Competency Trainings. Education and awareness training for staff including: “Strategies for protecting the safety of vulnerable populations, including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and gender-nonconforming inmates (including transgender and inter¬sex)”

Over the next year, US Attorney General, Eric Holder, will decide on a set of standards, per recommendation of the Commission, to be implemented in every state and district to help reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse in correctional facilities. After that, it will be states and localities which will have to implement the standards over a year. Let’s make sure we hold each state and locality responsible for implementing the standards. PFLAG National supports the implementation of these standards; LGBT incarcerated persons deserve to have their human rights and dignity respected.

- Millie Cripe

Millie Cripe is the new intern for the executive department. She is going to be a junior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, IN. She loves to read, write, and hang out with friends. She learned about PFLAG two and a half years ago when her older brother came out. Her brother is her best friend; watching his journey to try to find acceptance has only solidified her belief that all people deserve equal rights. Since her brother has come out, she and her family have been active members of the Indianapolis PFLAG chapter, and it’s been a great source of support as well as a means for advocacy. She is very excited to be interning at the national office and participating in the work she believes in so deeply.

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