On September 4, President George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 into law — the first federal act ever designed to address the problem of sexual assault in prisons.
The law, passed without opposition by both the Senate and House in July, creates a 9 member National Prison Rape Reduction Commission to investigate and report on the problem of rape in the nation’s prisons. In addition to providing for an annual Department of Justice review of prison rape rates, it provides funds for states to spend to prevent prison rape and prosecute alleged prison rapists.
As Wendy McElroy noted in a column commending the passage of the bill, estimates of prison rape rates are all over the map. A 2001 Human Rights Watch report on the topic estimated that anywhere from 250,000 to 600,000 prisoners — mostly men — are raped every year in American prisons.
McElroy also notes that feminist groups, who after all insist that rape is a gendered crime committed by men against women, were nowhere to be found lobbying for the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Instead it was the conservative Concerned Women for America along with a number of faith-based groups that lobbied for the bill.
The full text of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 can be read here.
Law targeting prison rape signed; diverse coalition backed measure. Trom Strode, Southern Baptist News, September 8, 2003.
Prison Rape Elimination Act Becomes Federal Law. Press Release, Stop Prison Rape, September 4, 2003.
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