The Prison Rape Elimination Act is a federal law that is expected to take… (Los Angeles Times )
What is it like to be brutally raped for four hours? In a prison, no less, where there are supposed to be guards maintaining order and facilitating rehabilitation?
A young inmate at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility bravely shared his rape story with the ACLU in a handwritten letter currently making the rounds online. (His identity has been blocked out.)
In it, he says he was held hostage in a prison cell. “I was beat brutally and faced several facial and rectum injuries from this attack,” he writes. “I was raped, robbed and assaulted by several other prisoners.” You can read the full account here. (h/t Jezebel.)
The ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander, has filed a class-action lawsuit that alleges state prison officials have “failed to protect the health and safety of prisoners” at the Mississippi facility.
On its website, the ACLU writes: “The facility is dangerously understaffed, and prisoners routinely set fires to attract the attention of officers to respond to emergencies. Without sufficient staff to protect prisoners from violence, rapes, stabbings and gang violence are rampant.” And in a statement released Thursday, ACLU staff counsel Gabriel Eber says, “The East Mississippi Correctional Facility is a throwback to the brutal prisons of decades ago, and the Mississippi Department of Corrections must do better."
Fortunately for prisoners there and elsewhere, the Prison Rape Elimination Act is expected to take effect at the state level beginning in August.
Unfortunately, inmates at jails won’t necessarily benefit from that law. “The Justice Department can hold accountable only federal or state prisons, or local facilities that receive federal funds,” The Times' editorial board recently wrote. “That leaves it up to the vast majority of local jails, juvenile detention camps and privately operated immigration detention centers to decide whether or not to comply.”
This issue is of particular concern in L.A. County, where the Twin Towers has one of the worst rates of sexual assault among inmates within men’s jails in the country.
There is a solution for protecting jail inmates, of course. Read on for the editorial board’s recommendation, which it says “would put California at the forefront of states accepting their moral and legal obligation to protect inmates.”
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