Improving Prison Oversight to Address Sexual Violence in Detention

Author(s): 
Melissa Rothstein and Lovisa Stannow
Publication Date: 
July 6, 2009

ACS is pleased to distribute "Improving Prison Oversight to Address Sexual Violence in Detention," an Issue Brief by Melissa Rothstein, the East Coast Program Director for Just Detention International (JDI), and Lovisa Stannow, JDI's Executive Director. In 2003, Congress focused national attention on the problem of sexual violence in our prisons, jails, and detention facilities when it passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). A commission created under the law just completed a comprehensive, five-year process that resulted in recommended national standards designed to address the problem, and Attorney General Eric Holder has one year to review the recommended standards and adopt final binding national standards. When adopted, the standards will immediately apply to all federal detention facilities, and states will have one year to certify their compliance or risk losing 5% of their federal corrections-related funding. Rothstein and Stannow argue that the national standards "have the potential to dramatically improve the safety of corrections facilities nationwide for officers and inmates alike."

In their Issue Brief, Rothstein and Stannow discuss the urgent need for national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention, in addition to a strong monitoring system to improve safety in detention facilities. The authors detail the problem of sexual violence in detention and its systemic and managerial underpinnings. They then discuss the recommended national standards, and examine the need for improved corrections oversight and the vital role that the national standards can play. Finally, Rothstein and Stannow conclude by urging the Attorney General to ratify the recommended standards, as well as establish a strong, independent mechanism for measuring compliance.