Will Delayed Federal Prison-Rape Regulations Be Adequate?


What the Washington Post calls “the long and inexplicably arduous process of crafting regulations to reduce rape and sexual abuse behind bars” finally is nearing completion is finally nearing completion. In an editorial, the newspaper questions whether the reforms under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 will be adequate. The Justice Department missed by far the June 2010 deadline for regulations under the law. The proposal is soon going to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

Attorney General Eric Holder has endorsed a zero-tolerance policy for rape and sex abuse behind bars; a prohibition on cross-gender pat-downs and strip searches of juveniles; background checks for corrections officers to learn past incidents of inmate abuse, and a requirement that every corrections facility designate an on-site PREA coordinator. The Post says the Justice Department has been reluctant to take steps that would ensure the spirit, as well as the letter, of PREA is faithfully followed. The Post says Justice should mandate that cross-gender pat-downs and strip searches of adults, as well as cross-gender observation of inmates in bathrooms, are used only when necessary. Correctional facilities should be required to keep tabs on sexual assaults and how they are dealt with, but they should also be subject to outside audits. Justice should recommend that immigration detention centers be covered by the regulations, the Post says.

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