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$13 Million Approved for Study of Prisoner Rape

A $13 million funding package has been approved for the study of prisoner rape, the first-ever federal appropriation for research on the issue. The package is part of the $397 billion federal spending bill signed by President Bush on February 20, 2003.

The language of the funding package states that the money is to be used for "implementation of prison rape prevention and prosecution programs including a statistical review and analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape. The development of national standards for enhancing the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prisoner rape."

Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape, said the money represents the first federal commitment to dealing with sexual assault behind bars. "We are pleased to see this serious and widespread abuse finally being addressed by the federal government," Stemple said. "Prisoner rape derails justice and destroys human dignity. We hope that this is the first small step toward a comprehensive solution."

It is unclear, however, whether the newly appropriated funds can be spent before the passage of the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2003, legislation that will be introduced to the House of Representatives this session. Staffers in the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., both co-sponsors of the PRRA, said they were uncertain about whether any of the $13 million pool could be spent immediately.

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