In the past couple months, I’ve written two posts about the enormous issue of prison rape. Over at Feministe, one of our guest bloggers, Liliana, also wrote an excellent post on the subject, which I highly recommend.
Amanda at the Sexist has recently published her own take (trigger warning: the post contains many important but graphic descriptions of rape by victims). Through that post, I’ve learned that the U.S. Department of Justice is accepting comments on the new guidelines to respond to and prevent prison rape for the next 10 days. Comments close on May 10th, and it’s really important that you get yours in.
In an interview over at Change.org, Lovisa Stannow of Just Detention International says:
It is crucial that people who care about ending sexual abuse behind bars submit comments. We know that corrections officials and their lobbyists will weigh in en masse. During the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission’s public comment period in 2008, on a draft version of the standards, more than 100 corrections departments and associations submitted comments objecting to the standards. Supportive public comments are vital to ensuring that the Attorney General promulgates strong standards.
The Justice Department’s public comment period is especially important as its review process otherwise is closed to outsiders. We know which agencies are participating in the PREA Working Group — including officials from the Bureau of Prisons, which is opposed to important aspects of the Commission’s recommendations — but we still do not have a list of the group’s members. Neither survivors nor their advocates have any formal role. This public comment period is one of the only opportunities for advocates, current and former inmates, and others to weigh in. We must use this opportunity to send a clear message to Attorney General Holder: ratify the standards swiftly and fully. Every day that we don’t have these measures in place, countless men, women, and youth will be raped even though we know how to keep them safe.
But it’s actually really important that you write your own comment. You can sign your name to the petition, but a far better and more effective use of your time would be to use the talking points found in the petition text to write in your own words why the standards are a great improvement on the status quo, why they should be adopted, and why it is so important to end prison rape.
Please, if you are able to, take the time between now and May 10th to go here and do just that. Every day these rules are not implemented is another day that preventable rapes against imprisoned women and men are being committed. And then, please, ask your friends, blog readers, etc. to do the same.