The sexual assault of prisoners is one of the largest problems in American prisons and jails today (the lack of adequate medical care is probably the biggest). As regular readers of PLN know, we have had extensive and ongoing coverage of prison rape issues since our inception in 1990. This has included in depth stories on sexual assaults in particular states, legislation, litigation, organizing and much more around the topic.
I edit the News in Brief column for each issue of PLN. In doing so, I try to aim for a diverse geographical and issue selection of articles. Alas, the sexual assault of prisoners is so common I could probably put out a 20 page monthly magazine dealing with nothing but that one topic. Since I try not to have too much of any one subject in the News in Brief column, my sexual assault news pile slowly grew to the point that I thought doing a feature story on it would be a good idea.
This story focuses on the sexual assault of prisoners by staff. At this point all states and the federal government criminalize sex between prisoners and staff. However, as previously reported, when enforced these laws are characterized by lackluster prosecutions, dismissed charges, light sentences and a general disregard for the victim. About the only time American politicians, judges and prosecutors treat rape as a joke is when the victim is a prisoner. One thing to keep in mind while reading this article is that for the most part it does not duplicate (with two minor exceptions) any prior PLN coverage of sexual assaults of prisoners by staff and it is news from around the country: 28 states. Day in and day out, in all 50 states prisoners are being sexually assaulted by their keepers. This is not meant to be a laundry list of rape but rather to expose the depth and breadth of the problem.
Stop Prisoner Rape is an organization dedicated to stopping the sexual assault of prisoners (I am on their advisory board). This has long been one of PLNs goals as well and we work together with SPR on this topic, their quarterly column in PLN is ones means of doing this.
Public education and awareness of the issue is an important first step in this process. While congress has enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act as a tiny, tepid first step to governmental recognition of the problem, many other congressional actions, such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act, prevent meaningful steps to more decisively halt sexual assaults in prison. As legislators campaign for office on the backs of sex offenders they are silent about the sex offenders in their employ or what they have done to give them de facto impunity.
PLN is back on its regular publishing schedule so readers should be getting each issue around the first of the month.
PLN's website continues to grow and expand. In an effort to make our content more accessible we have changed the subscription rate to a much lower and simpler format: $9.95 a month or $69.95 a year per user (folks who subscribed at the old rate will have their subscriptions extended under the new rates). Our website has every issue of PLN in PDF format, plus all articles in a searchable database, thousands of case summaries and articles that have never appeared in print, the full text of thousands of prison and jail court decisions; a brief bank of pleadings, settlements and unpublished court rulings, and a whole lot more. Everything is set up so it can be easily printed out and sent to prisoners by mail as they do not have direct internet access. See our ad on page two for more details.
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