The Justice Department should remedy weaknesses in proposed new rape-prevention policies for federal prisons and state correctional institutions that receive federal money, says the New York Times in an editorial. An estimated 200,000 adult prisoners and jail inmates suffered some form of sexual abuse during 2008. A commission made a “long and compelling list” of recommendations, including a zero-tolerance approach to rape behind bars, better training of staff members, more effective ways to report assaults, more thorough investigations, and better medical and psychiatric services for victims.
Prisons would be required to make sexual assault data public so policy makers could get a clear view of how well or how poorly vulnerable inmates were being protected. Still, the Times says, immigration detention centers should not be excluded, and a provision “permitting prisons systems to invalidate most complaints not lodged within 20 days seems arbitrary.” The Justice Department has done the right thing by limiting cross-gender strip searches to emergency situations, but it should also set a goal of ending cross-gender pat-down searches, the Times says.