Every day, a large number of men are raped in American jails and prisons–240,000 a year, says the activist group Stop Prison Rape. But a proposal to investigate the problem is languishing in Congress, says the National Review. The Prison Rape Reduction Act is supported by leaders of both parties but is mired in committee because of disagreement over details and a lack of active support from the Bush administration. “If Justice gave the nod, it would be law today, says Vincent Schiraldi of the Justice Policy Institute.
Prison rape often becomes a death sentence. Writing in the journal AIDS, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that prisoners have nearly six times the AIDS-infection rate of the population as a whole.
The bill proposes $60 million for rape-prevention programs, requires states to collect statistics on prison rape, and establishes a commission to study the problem. States whose prison administrators fail to report statistics would lose small amounts of federal money for criminal-justice programs. But Tracy Henke of the Justice Department raised fears that denying grant money to non-compliant states would leave some states without adequate money for criminal-justice programs. The corrections industry has expressed similar reservations.
“This is a bill that just about everybody believes should pass,” says Pat Nolan, head of the Justice Fellowship, a sister organization of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship. “And it’s disturbing that it gets hung up over a minor issue like this.”