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U.S. Correctional Facilities Need Correcting

Yesterday, our post presented research collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that reveals the dangerous reality of America's correctional system. According to the bureau's recent research, an estimated 300 inmates are sexually abused in our jails or prisons every day.

Scott Howard was one of those victimized prisoners. Howard is a former inmate of a Colorado prison, and he confesses that he was raped and forced to practice sexual acts on other inmates during his two years in the Colorado facility. He reported the incidents to facility staff members but was told that he could only be helped if he named the specific inmates who had assaulted him.

According to Howard, he did name his offenders despite fearing for his life, but no help came because no real process exists within the system to address the issue of inmate-on-inmate sexual assault. Howard claims that his report was so ineffective, that he was put in a cell alone with one of his offenders and assaulted the day he was released from the Colorado prison.

Stories such as Howard's, along with the recent study, have prompted the Justice Department and other human rights groups, such as the ACLU and the Prison Rape Elimination Commission, to challenge the U.S. correctional system to provide safer facilities for our prisoners.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act was established in 2003, which aims to reduce the rate of sexual assault in our correctional system and also provide treatment for inmates who are assaulted while incarcerated. For financial reasons, however, the legislation has not been put into action.

A new proposal for system improvement will be submitted to the White House by this fall. It will, again, outline a plan to both help prevent sexual victimization in jails and prisons and treat inmates who fall victim to either a fellow inmate's or facility staff member's criminal behavior.

Whether the new proposal will be taken seriously and enacted will likely depend on financial factors. Because the U.S. is in the midst of a recession, it would be surprising if improvements are made within the system. Check back next week to read an upcoming post that will discuss why preventing sexual victimization in U.S. jails and prisons is financially smart and ethically necessary. 

Resources

TheDenverChannel.com: Female Inmates More Than Twice As Likely To Be Abused: 8/26/2010)

The New York Review of Books, NYR Blog: Prison Rape: Eric Holder's Unfinished Business (8/26/2010)

 

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