The federal legislation on prison rape making its way through Congress this week is the result of work by an eclectic alliance of human rights, legal advocacy, Jewish reform, and evangelical Christian organizations, The Hill newspaper says.
The Senate passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act on Monday. The bill requires the Justice Department to collect statistics on the problem nd allocate $40 million to state and local programs to help stop it. The measure is pending in the House.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who sponsored the bill in the House, credits Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute for the bill’s likely passage. Horowitz, a former Reagan administration official, had worked to pass legislation cracking down on religious persecution and sexual trafficking by building unusual coalitions. He told The Hill he decided to combat prison rape while having lunch a couple of years ago with Linda Chavez, a conservative activist. “She said ‘I have always thought what is so outrageous is that prison rape has never been effectively dealt with,’” Horowitz recalled.
Horowitz began reaching out to liberals and conservatives, such as Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and mental health experts. Horowitz first approached Wolf, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-State-Justice and the Judiciary.
As a subcommittee chair with interest in the moral and legal problems posed by prison rape, Wolf decided to get involved. The group also approached Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a key member on the House Judiciary Committee. Scott said he favored the bill because it would reduce recidivism rates and that men released from prison would be less prone to violence. In the Senate, Horowitz aznd John Kaneb, a Massachusetts GOP fundraiser who bankrolled a Human Rights Watch study of prison rape, approached Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his top legal aide, Robin Toone, a Yale Law School graduate who has authored a book on prisoners’ rights.