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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today submitted comments to Attorney General Eric Holder concerning standards developed by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to prevent sexual abuse in prisons, jails and youth detention centers. The ACLU expressed its strong support for the proposed standards with suggested modifications to strengthen the protection of vulnerable inmates.
"These standards are the culmination of a far-reaching national dialogue that included prison officials, corrections professionals, mental health experts and all other major stakeholders. When implemented they will play a critically important role in helping to eliminate the horror of rape in our nation's prisons," said Margaret Winter, Associate Project Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. "The attorney general should enhance certain standards to ensure adequate protection for especially vulnerable populations that are at heightened risk for being sexually abused in prison, and adopt the commission's recommendations without further delay."
The commission's standards establish crucial protocols for training employees to prevent sexual abuse, reporting and investigating incidents of abuse and providing medical and mental health care for victims.
The modifications sought by the ACLU to enhance the standards include a set of recommendations to better protect the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) inmates, who are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse in prison. These specific recommendations were submitted in cooperation with the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center and LambdaLegal.
"Research documents the catastrophically high rate of sexual victimization of LGBTI inmates," said Leslie Cooper, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and AIDS Project. "Many prisons not only fail to protect these inmates, but also do not take their reports of sexual abuse seriously and even blame them for their own victimization. There is an urgent need for drastic changes in our prisons to put a stop to this."
"These standards must be finalized so that our prisons can begin the task of eliminating sexual abuse," said Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "There are millions of Americans behind bars and they are being subjected daily to increasingly abusive conditions. We urge the attorney general to strongly consider our comments and urge swift implementation of these standards."
The ACLU's general comments on the standards can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/aclu-comments-attorney-general-holder-regarding-national-standards-prevent-detect-a
Comments from the ACLU LGBT Project can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights-prisoners-rights/aclu-national-center-transgender-equality-national-center-lesbian-right