Blog of Rights

The Shameful Index of Prison Rape - Action on PREA Can End the Violence

By Amy Fettig, ACLU National Prison Project & Jennifer Wedekind, National Prison Project at 4:29pm

Today the Department of Justice released the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, representing the first time that the federal government has issued national standards to help end sexual abuse in correctional facilities. The regulations are two years late and a lot of harm has been done in their absence, but now that they’ve finally been released they can help us protect important constitutional and human rights and ensure safe and fair correctional facilities that assist prisoners in rehabilitation rather than needlessly brutalizing them. The ACLU supports the Department’s efforts to protect and prevent sexual abuse in places of detention, although we regret that immigration facilities are not yet included in these standards.  

Sadly, the problem of prison rape is just as pressing now as it was when Congress passed PREA in 2003. Below is the shameful index of prison rape in prisons, jails and youth detention centers across the country. These numbers reflect a national tragedy. But PREA gives us the critical tools to stop rape in our corrections facilities. Now, federal, state and local governments and the public must take strong and continued action to ensure that the promise of PREA becomes a safe and secure reality.

Number of people imprisoned in the United States: 2.3 million

Number of victims of rape or sexual abuse in U.S. prison, jails and juvenile detention facilities in the past year according to the Justice Department: 216,600 (the DOJ admitted it was likely “underestimating the extent of the problem”)

Number of victims of rape or sexual abuse in U.S. prison, jails and juvenile detention facilities since the initial PREA legislation as signed into law (Sept. 4, 2003): 1,884,909

Number of days past the Department of Justice’s deadline (June 23, 2010) for establishing the final standards: 717

Number of victims of rape or sexual abuse in U.S. prison, jails and juvenile detention facilities since the Department of Justice missed its deadline to establish regulations: 411,332

Percentage of youth in state juvenile facilities and large non-state facilities who experienced one or more incidents of sexual victimization in the past 12 months: 12%

Percentage of youth sexually victimized by a corrections staff member: 10.3%

Percentage of former state prisoners reporting one or more incidents of sexual victimization while in jail, prison or post-release community treatment facilities: 9.6%

Percentage of male former state prisoners who identified as homosexual or gay who reported being sexually victimized by another inmate: 39%

Percentage of male bisexual former state prisoners who reported being sexually victimized by another inmate: 34%

Percentage of transgender prisoners reporting being sexually assaulted in prison or jail according to a national survey: 15%

Percentage of black transgender prisoners reporting being sexually assaulted in prison or jail according to a national survey: 34%

Percentage of former state prisoners who experience retaliation in the form of disciplinary charges after reporting sexual victimization by a staff member: 46.3%

Percentage of former state prisoners who reported no facility response at all, after reporting sexual victimization by another prisoner: 37%

Number of states which allow cross-gender pat downs: 30

Number of reported incidents of sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities since 2007: 185

Number of organizations which urged President Obama to instruct the Department of Justice to extend PREA coverage to immigration detention facilities: 38

Number of members of the National Sheriff’s Association, which called on the Department of Justice to extend its PREA regulations to Department of Homeland Security detention centers: 18,000

Number of original sponsors of PREA who intended the legislation to include immigration detention facilities: 8

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