ACLU's National Prison Project Convenes Conference on Ending Prisoner Rape

October 19, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON, D.C.-Although federal courts have deemed prisoner rape constitutionally unacceptable, sexual abuse of inmates continues to be a serious and largely ignored problem in U.S. prisons and jails. A conference convened this weekend by the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, titled, “”Not Part of the Penalty: Ending Prison Rape,”” will seek to shed light on this disturbing trend.

“”This conference is the first ever to address this appalling human rights violation,”” said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU’s Washington-based National Prison Project. “”Our deliberations this weekend will seek ways to give real meaning to the principle that rape is not part of the price that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.””

The two-day conference will open this morning with an awards ceremony honoring Tom Cahill, president of Stop Prisoner Rape, and Cassandra Collins, an activist. Both are survivors of prison rape.

The conference will address both prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse and custodial sexual misconduct (sexual abuse of prisoners by guards and other custodial staff). Panels consisting of activists, rape survivors, lawyers, academics and public health specialists will cover topics ranging from the incidence of prisoner rape, to its effects on survivors, to its impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The conference will be hosted by the Washington College of Law. Other groups involved in organizing the conference and bringing this issue to light include, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Interlock Media and Stop Prisoner Rape.

Founded in 1972 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Prison Project seeks to create constitutional conditions of confinement and strengthen prisoners’ rights through class action litigation and public education. Policy priorities include reducing prison overcrowding, improving prisoner medical care, eliminating violence and maltreatment in prisons and jails, and minimizing the reliance on incarceration as a criminal justice sanction.

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