May 1, 2012 — "Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been sexually abused behind bars over the past three years while the Obama administration dithered," a Washington Post editorial states, noting that it has been "nearly two years" since a deadline passed for the Department of Justice to implement regulations aimed at reducing sexual violence in correctional institutions and detention centers.
The editorial notes that the Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed in 2003, "created a commission that spent six years studying sexual abuse in correctional facilities and crafting thoughtful proposals to decrease such violence." The panel -- which included representatives from academia, the private corrections industry and prisoner advocates -- issued its recommendations in the summer of 2009, giving the Obama administration one year to create regulations.
"Instead, the Justice Department needlessly duplicated the commission's work, re-interviewing dozens of individuals and groups whose views the panel had considered," the editorial states, adding that the administration blamed the delays on "the bureaucratic process."
Although the editorial commends the administration for endorsing certain provisions -- such as "a prohibition on cross-gender pat-downs and strip searches of juveniles and the conclusion that PREA covers not just rape but a broader category of sexual abuse" -- it urges officials to extend these policies to federal immigration detention centers. The editorial adds that "[e]veryone in custody -- regardless of the type of institution -- should be able to know that the government is doing everything in its power to ensure humane and safe conditions" (Washington Post, 4/29).