Recently published in the New York Times, the article titled, “Push to End Prison Rape Loses Earlier Momentum”, highlights state officials’ lack of desire to be PREA compliant and the inability of incarcerated sexual assault survivors to obtain alternative confinement in prisons. These problems are compounded by the unreasonable goal to complete all 8,000 correctional facility audits on sexual safety by 2016.
Highlighting a representative example of the system-wide deficiencies, the author writes about a transgender woman inmate by the name of Passion Star, who has been a victim of repeated gender discrimination, sexual assault, and gang attacks. Texas prison officials have repeatedly ignored or denied her requests for alternative confinement. Statewide, the Texas prison system continues to ignore the high number of sexual assault complaints and has refused to adopt PREA standards, which are designed to eradicate prison rape in all populations and protect vulnerable populations, including gay and transgender individuals.
Incarcerated individuals serve time for crimes committed, but sexual assault is not a part of the punishment.
This is a critical moment when officials must acknowledge that prison rape exists and that a potential remedy exists, i.e. PREA. The momentum can be regained through continued efforts and inter- state and inter-agency collaboration. Some states are designing programs to help uphold the PREA standards via local rape crisis centers, which provide services and support to incarcerated individuals who have been sexually assaulted. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) has partnered with Just Detention International (JDI) with a shared goal of creating a sustainable model of collaboration between correctional facilities and local community rape crisis centers in California. Technical training is provided by both CALCASA and JDI for both prison officials and rape crisis advocates to elevate the quality and accessibility of services and support for incarcerated sexual assault survivors.
Much work has been done. Much more work remains. Yet all hope is not lost. Momentum can be sustained when we believe that our goals are important and attainable. It starts with advocates, state officials, and correctional facility officials coming together and recognizing there is a systemic problem that is in dire need of being addressed, goals that need to be put in place, action taken and momentum then achieved.
“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals” – Michael Korda
Varsha N., JD