Posts Tagged ‘national prison rape elimination commission’
On Wednesday I noted how you can submit your feedback to the Department of Justice on the proposed prison rape elimination standards. Another option is to sign on to the letter that will be submitted by the Campaign for Youth Justice. Here are the details — note the deadline to sign onto the letter is
5 PM TODAY (UPDATE: deadline has been extended to 10 AM SUNDAY):
In response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proposed regulations on the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), the Campaign for Youth Justice is circulating a sign-on letter calling on DOJ to ban the placement of youth (under 18) in adult jails and prisons. Their goal is to obtain at least 500 national, state and local organizations and individuals in all 50 states. As the DOJ comments are due at close of business on Monday, April 4, we are asking for signatories by
Friday, April 1, at 5 PMSunday, April 3, at 10 AM. If you or your organization would like to sign onto the attached letter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This coming Monday, April 4, is the deadline for submitting public comment to the Department of Justice about its proposed regulations aimed at reducing prison rape and sexual abuse. Just Detention International has compiled a handy how-to that walks you through the process. You can choose to take literally 2 minutes to click through and submit JDI’s form letter in your name, or take a little longer to write your own message. If you’re looking for additional fodder for your letter, visit the Prison Fellowship site which takes AG Eric Holder to task for weakening the standards. This article, from the New York Review of Books, will give you additional background on the issue and the proposed standards.
I don’t know if the current momentum for criminal justice reform will translate into legislative results, but hey, at least we’re getting some handy websites out of it. First there was Right on Crime, and now there’s Smart on Crime — a website compiling federal policy recommendations related to all facets of criminal justice reform, put together by a coalition of organizations ranging from the ACLU and NACDL to the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute. The site is organized around issues, with each section including an overview of the problem, a list of reform recommendations, and contact info for leading experts on the subject, so it’s a handy resource even if you’re not the target audience of “the Administration and Congress.”
Anyway, the section on Prison Reform takes up some issues close to this blog’s heart — including the Prison Litigation Reform Act (which I’ve written about here). Here’s a summary of Smart on Crime’s recommendations on prison policy:
- Fully implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act
- Address the problems created by the Prison Litigation Reform Act
- Build transparency and accountability in corrections
- Reduce recidivism and increase effective rehabilitation
- Reduce the use of long-term isolation and design effective alternatives
- Design an evidence-based approach to criminal justice
I’ve been lax posting here lately, but not because there hasn’t been prison legal news. Miscellaneous other projects require my attention at least for the next few days — all apologies, but also, that’s what you get when you rely on a prison blog that’s an on-the-side project — but for now, here are a few links to keep you busy:
- The Supreme Court decided Ortiz v. Jordan (decision and other docs here), ruling in favor of Michelle Ortiz, who was molested by a prison guard and then sent to solitary when she spoke up about it.
- The Justice Department has finally gotten around to releasing proposed rules pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act. In the words of AG Eric Holder: “Sexual abuse is a crime, not punishment for a crime.” When the rules are opened to public comment at regulations.gov, I’ll post a how-to for those interested in entering their thoughts into the public record. As noted by the hard-working folks at Just Detention International, by the DOJ’s figures some 600 inmates are sexually abused every day.
Also: admittedly I actually have approximately “negative infinity” interest, as a 5-year-old might say, in watching the State of the Union or any other political speech — I just don’t really care about “politics” per se, or “positioning” or “rhetoric” or whatever you want to call it, and it’s not like the State of the Union has practical policy significance; so fine, lump me in with the Great Uninformed — so I have no idea what Obama may or may not have said last night, but I did like this tweet.
The Pace Law Review has published a special issue on prison oversight, available for download here. The articles include a piece on how prison inspections interact with prisoners’ rights; case studies from Canada, New York, and California; and a piece on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. The issue also includes two very useful resources: a 68-page (!) annotated bibliography of research findings on prison oversight from around the world, and a 50-state inventory of existing correctional oversight mechanisms within the United States.
As the DOJ continues to delay in promulgating national standards for the prevention of prison rape, Virginia civil rights attorney Victor Glasberg recently published this letter to the editor in the Washington Post, offering a different take:
The United States neither lacks nor needs “standards” to prevent rape, in prisons or elsewhere. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and a host of laws and regulations outlaw the victimization, sexual and otherwise, of prisoners. The problem is that these laws and regulations are not enforced.
The federal judiciary has largely nullified the means prisoners might use to protect themselves. Given the judge-invented “deliberate indifference” standard and the “qualified immunity” defense as well as the stumbling blocks to valid and important prisoners’ claims created by the Orwellian-named Prison Litigation Reform Act, even horrible abuse in prison is routinely un-actionable except against the perpetrator, who is typically judgment-proof as a practical matter.
The promulgation or non-promulgation of “prison rape standards” is a sadly inconsequential sideshow to the main event: providing victims of abuse with legal recourse sufficiently effective to compel changes in the cultures of the prisons and jails where they live.
Poor Eric Holder: It can’t feel good to know that the ACLU, Focus on the Family, the American Conservative Union, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, Grover Norquist, Gary Bauer, Jim Wallis, Prison Fellowship, the Sentencing Project, the NAACP, and the National Immigrant Justice Center—among others—are all “furious” with you, and all for the same reason. Back in June, Obama’s attorney general missed his statutory deadline to promulgate national standards for reducing prison rape. The standards have been proposed by the bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which was convened pursuant to the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, and represent what are already best practices at the facilities that have done the most to curtail prison rape. But they still require Holder’s formal say-so to become binding conditions on federal funding for prisons and jails nationwide.
(Incidentally, for a skeptical take on whether such conditions can actually reduce prison rape, especially in light of widespread public indifference to the problem, see this 2003 Slate article by my criminal law professor, Bob Weisberg. Ever-insightful readers: Do you think things have changed since 2003? Just Detention International thinks so: “The standards release was a turning point in the struggle to end sexual abuse in detention. After decades of institutional denial, downplaying, and flippant repetition of stereotypes, government agencies and corrections officials have finally begun to describe the problem of sexual abuse behind bars as a serious violation of human rights … .”)
Yesterday, the above-listed coalition of strange bedfellows issued an open letter urging Holder to promulgate the standards sooner rather than later. In fairness, it’s not that Holder has completely ignored the issue: rather, he says his office needs more time to assess the implementation costs to prisons and jails (as required by the PREA itself), and to ensure that the regulations promulgated “will endure” (PDF link to Holder’s letter). But many advocates view the delay as indefensible foot-dragging in the face of widespread violations of prisoners’ human rights. In any event, this controversy sparked my interest in the broader question of statutory deadlines of this type. What exactly were the terms of the Attorney General’s deadline, and what, if any, are the consequences for Holder’s failing to meet it? If there are no consequences, what was the point of Congress’s legislating the deadline to begin with? I’ll (sketchily) consider these questions after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »