After years of discussion, the Department of Justice announced new federal rules to address high rates of sexual assault on rape in prison. The regulations apply to inmates in federal, state and local prisons and jails, and primarily concern prevention tactics, better reporting tactics and getting prisons to change their institutional culture.
They’re also binding rules; prisons that violate them stand to lose five percent of their federal funding, the New York Times reports. The regulations are the first of their kind, and come after Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act back in 2003.
“In popular culture prison rape is often the subject of jokes; in public discourse, it has been at times dismissed by some as an inevitable — or even deserved — consequence of criminality,” the Department of Justice’s summary of the rules, released Thursday, read. “But sexual abuse is never a laughing matter, nor is it punishment for a crime. Rather, it is a crime, and it is no more tolerable when its victims have committed crimes of their own.”
Sexual assault in prisons remains an all too common and frequently ignored issue; nearly one in ten inmates reports having been the victim of rape of sexual assault in prison according to a new Bureau of Justice Statistics report (PDF), and the rates are higher for LGBT respondents. Nearly 40 percent of gay males report being targeted with sexual assault by fellow inmates.