Sunday, June 13, 2010

Perpetuating Prison Violence

"RAPE IS VIOLENT, destructive, and a crime -- no less so when the victim is incarcerated." These were the opening words of a report delivered to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last June by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. By law, the attorney general was given one year to consider the report's recommendations and issue standards to reduce the scourge of sexual violence in the nation's prisons.

The Justice Department is about to miss its June 23 deadline -- and probably by a shamefully wide margin.
The department will not say, but those following this issue closely estimate that the Justice Department is unlikely to take action until the end of this year. At that time, federal prisons will be obligated to adopt whatever standards Justice approves. State and local facilities will not be forced to embrace the measures for another year after that. In the meantime, more prisoners -- including juveniles -- will have been senselessly brutalized.


Addressing prison violence in any form is a difficult challenge. There are so many factors to contend with - too many inmates, too few correctional officers and staff, too little hope and too much anger and frustration. All of this occurs in the context of simple-minded bromides from politicians and citizens who wish to continue the failed "get tough" ideology of the 1980s and '90s.

But stalling and delaying any progress on addressing prison violence should be unacceptable. Offenders are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. The essay correctly points out that allowing violence of any kind to flourish is an indication of a prison out of control. We only have to look at the Idaho Correctional Center as a case in point.

In the mean time, states like Idaho continue to ignore the realities of a burgeoning prison population and declining budgets. I wonder why the recidivism rate is not higher?

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