VA Inmates File Suit Over Rape, Sodomy In Prison

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Thirty-five inmates at a Virginia prison, fed up with rape and sodomy at the institution, have filed federal lawsuits seeking an end to prison violence, reports the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. The lawsuits come at the same time a group of prisoner advocates are demanding that the U.S. attorney general implement regulations, ordered by Congress, to eliminate sexual attacks in prisons. Scott Howard-Smith of Wisconsin says his story is similar to those of other prison rape victims. Imprisoned in Colorado as a nonviolent offender, he was housed with violent gang members who forced him into prostitution. He said he was passed around for $5. His complaints, he said, were ignored.

An advocacy group called Just Detention International is trying to put pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to implement regulations under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a 2003 law passed by Congress with bipartisan support. Wednesday was the deadline for Holder to implement the rules, but his office has indicated it will need several more months. Virginia says it already has requirements of the act in place, but other states have balked at the law, citing costs. Alabama, for example, said it would cost $58 million to start such a program in that state; New Mexico estimated its cost at $12 million.

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