U.S Congress Passes Crucial Bill to Stop Prisoner Rape
- December 2, 2016
The Justice For All Act, which will help protect inmates from sexual violence, is on its way to President Obama’s Desk
Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., December 2, 2016 — The effort to end prisoner rape received a major boost yesterday with the passage of the Justice For All Act (JFAA) reauthorization in Congress. The bill includes provisions to strengthen the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), most notably by setting a deadline for states to get into compliance with that law. The new bill — which garnered bipartisan support in the Senate and the House — now heads to President Barack Obama, who has been a leader in addressing all forms of sexual violence.
Senators John Cornyn and Patrick Leahy and Representatives Ted Poe and Jim Costa authored JFAA in conjunction with JDI and dozens of advocacy groups. “Leaders from both sides of the aisle, and everyone in Congress, deserve credit for recognizing that prisoner rape is a crisis that demands immediate attention,” said Lovisa Stannow, JDI’s Executive Director. “Right now, states have an indefinite amount of time to implement PREA. This bill closes that loophole and, if signed by the President, will force states to speed up their efforts to make sure that prisoners are safe.”
Under current law, governors must annually report their level of PREA compliance to the Attorney General. If they have not fully implemented the law, they can offer an assurance that they are making progress. In March, 80 percent of states provided the Attorney General with an assurance. Under JFAA, this option will sunset after six years; states either will have to be fully PREA compliant or will lose federal grant money.
JFAA also calls for more transparency regarding states’ efforts to address sexual violence behind bars. Along with reporting their level of PREA compliance, governors will now have to share significant detail on what their state corrections agencies are doing to implement PREA and, if the agency is not yet in compliance, their plan for achieving it. Further, the bill mandates the creation of a federal clearinghouse for all PREA audits, giving the public easy access to information that currently is only posted on the websites of individual agencies, if at all.
The fate of JFAA is now in the hands of President Obama, who, in 2015, gave a powerful speech calling for an end to prisoner rape and the culture that supports it. “Given the President’s leadership over the last eight years on the effort to end sexual violence, JDI is optimistic that he will embrace these important reforms,” said Stannow. “Ending prisoner rape remains a rare issue that unites the federal government across party lines and ideologies. From PREA’s original bipartisan authors to President George W. Bush to the Obama Administration, everyone agrees that rape is not part of the penalty.”
Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention