Nearly six years after President George W. Bush signed legislation aimed at reducing prison rape, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission is calling on corrections officers to identify vulnerable inmates, offer better medical care, and allow stricter monitoring of their facilities, the Washington Post reports. A 2007 survey of state and federal prisoners estimated that 60,500 inmates had been abused the previous year. Experts say that the stigma of sexual assault often leads to underreporting of incidents and denial by many of the victims.
The report says sexual abuse of prisoners often is viewed as a source of jokes rather than a problem with destructive implications for public health, crime rates, and successful reentry of prisoners into the community. “If you have a zero-tolerance policy on prison rape and it is known from the highest ranks that this will not be tolerated and there will be consequences for it, that goes a long way in sending a message,” said U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton of Washington, D.C., the commission chairman. Attorney General Eric Holder will have one year to prepare mandatory national standards. The recommendations are not binding, but states that do not adopt them could have federal criminal justice aid cut.