| Read Time: < 1 minute | Sex Crimes

Protecting inmates from rape is a critical priority

In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Last year, the Justice Department finally released a list of prevention measures that prisons and jails receiving federal money must follow as a measure of enforcing this law. In essence, the 2003 law both insists on a zero tolerance policy with regards to inmate rape and on the implementation of Justice Department rape prevention mandates. Unfortunately, when individuals are compelled to mount a criminal defense and are sentenced to imprisonment, they remain at a high risk of experiencing sexual assault or rape while imprisoned. According to a newly released federal report authored by experts at the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the majority of incarceration facilities affected by the 2003 law have yet to comply with either of its two important mandates. Specifically, the new report reveals that more than three percent of jail inmates and at least four percent of prison inmates were victims of sexual abuse in 2012 alone. Roughly translated, these percentages represent more than 80,000 Americans. In addition, it is quite possible that due to fear or the stigma associated with reporting that these statistics do not accurately depict the scope of this issue. It is time that federal regulators enforced the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act with regards both to its zero-tolerance policies and prevention mandates. Particularly vulnerable populations including the mentally ill and LGBT inmates are most in need of protection, but all inmates are entitled to safety behind bars. Serving time for committing a crime does not mean that inmates should be subjected to abuse, period. Source: New York Times, “Rape Behind Bars,” May 25, 2013

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Federal Crimes

Report calls for reform of compassionate release program

Both federal and state criminal laws often provide for certain release valves to be used in the event that it makes more sense from a values balancing standpoint to release a prisoner or mitigate his or her imprisonment terms than to keep that prisoner locked away. The criminal justice system seeks in part to balance the needs of public safety with the rights of prisoners. These release valves are employed when prisoners no longer pose any likely threat to public safety. According to federal sentencing guidelines, prisoners may be freed from the remainder of their prison sentences on a “compassionate release” basis under extraordinary circumstances. For example, if a prisoner is diagnosed with a terminal illness and no longer poses any likely danger to society, that prisoner may petition for compassionate release. This program serves the interests of taxpayer dollars and balancing the important interests of prisoners with public safety. Unfortunately, a recently released report authored by the independent inspector general at the Justice Department confirms that this release valve is being pulled far too infrequently by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The report also confirms that pulling this release valve more often would save valuable taxpayer dollars by reducing unnecessary overcrowding of prisoners who are only being sent home due to extraordinary circumstances. Over the five year period of 2006 to 2011, just 142 inmates were granted compassionate release status. The independent inspector general urges the federal Bureau of Prisons to reconsider its position on compassionate release and to reform its approach for the benefit of ailing prisoners and taxpayers alike. Source: New York Times, “More Releases of Ailing Prisoners Are Urged,” Charlie Savage, May 1, 2013

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