There is a prison in Texas where 15.7% of the inmates were raped in the preceding year alone. Think about that for a second. One in six inmates were raped either by other inmates or those charged with guarding them -- which in that prison alone means there were 470 victims of sexual violence in a 12-month period. In any country that likes to think of itself as a beacon of freedom, this is outrageous and must be stopped.
While the percentage is not quite as significant at other prisons around the country, it is still disgracefully high, especially for those who are violated in the most dehumanizing way possible. This includes over 100,000 men, women and yes -- CHILDREN -- a fact that should be every bit as shocking, embarrassing and downright sickening as those photos from Abu Ghraib.
Well, now seems like the perfect time to do something about this. It is currently Sexual Assault Awareness month, and we are approaching the end of a deadline (June 2010) for the Attorney General to act on recommendations mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), passed in 2003. You want bipartisanship in Washington? I give you a bill that was unanimously passed, co-sponsored by Sens. Teddy Kennedy and Jeff Sessions, and signed into law by George W. Bush. Its standards were created by a bipartisan federal commission upon consultation with corrections officials, criminal justice experts, advocates and prison-rape survivors.
So what can you do to make sure the Obama Administration enacts these common-sense solutions, such as weeding out known predators, ensuring the especially vulnerable receive additional monitoring and increasing the overall transparency of our corrections system by providing independent audits of our prisons? You can quite literally make your voice heard.
How? By adding your public comment to the rising tide of those who realize that whether your issue is improving public health, creating a more just and moral society or saving taxpayer money (think litigation), ensuring Attorney General Holder codifies the federal regulations mandated by the PREA, forthwith, should be a top priority.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." In the era of interactive media, you needn't be part of the elite to make your voice heard. Every one of us has a weapon in our very own progressive arsenal, our ability to raise our voices quite publicly. So speak up, and become a part of a campaign to further ensure we live in the America we want and deserve.
**I am proud to be a media consultant for Just Detention International