On behalf of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, I am pleased to submit the following report on our work toward the elimination of sexual abuse in correctional and detention facilities nationwide.
In the years leading up to the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act and since then, the work of corrections and detention professionals to address the problem of sexual abuse has been significant and laudable. They have established new policies and programs in some facilities, and expanded and refined existing practices in others. Their determination and commitment has led the way and informed the work of our Commission. Even more important, as a result of their efforts, we have seen ideas transform into actions that by all accounts have the potential to improve safety and security for those living and working within correctional and detention facilities.
Despite this important progress, much remains to be done. Although many correctional systems and individual facilities are ahead of the curve, others lag behind. Some corrections leaders enjoy the full cooperation and support they need from the policymakers who oversee their systems; others struggle to secure necessary resources and political commitments. The problem of prison rape and other forms of sexual abuse is too serious and far-reaching, too devastating to the individuals and communities that it ultimately affects to be left to evolve unevenly. The Commission’s report and national standards create a mechanism for advancing the field uniformly, requiring the participation of all to protect people under supervision in every corner of our Nation.
Congress conferred upon the Commission an enormous responsibility: developing national standards that will lead to the prevention, detection, and punishment of prison rape. Yet Congress also and appropriately required us to seriously consider the restrictions of cost, differences among systems and facilities, and existing political structures. We have endeavored to comply with these directives, sometimes struggling to find the correct balance among competing considerations. This report describes the scope and seriousness of the problems, ways of solving them, and what is at stake. The report also includes inspiring examples of good practices, demonstrating that Congress’ goals can be achieved and that the Commission’s standards are a realistic blueprint for progress and change.
In our work, the Commissioners have learned more than any of us expected at the outset. We have been challenged to examine problems that we wish did not exist and confronted with accounts of sexual abuse that shocked and saddened us, partly because the pain of the experience was still evident in the victims’ voices as they testified before the Commission. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to witness remarkable examples of human resolve, creativity, and strength among survivors of sexual abuse as well as corrections and detention professionals. Through it all, we have questioned our own assumptions and perspectives to fully understand the far-reaching nature of the problems and the potential for solutions.
As we near the end of our time of contribution and deliver our report and standards, I offer my sincere gratitude to Commission staff and others who contributed to this important effort. And for my fellow Commissioners who joined me in this challenging endeavor, I have not only gratitude but also great admiration. This diverse group has never flagged in its determination to complete its task with integrity, thoughtfulness, and respect. Through countless days of working together and hours of difficult and sometimes heated discussion, we have come to know each other well. Our diverse perspectives, insights, and talents and the debates we embraced have enhanced our work.
It has been my honor and privilege to serve as the Chair of the Commission. Along with my distinguished and committed colleagues, I am proud to offer this report and our standards as the next step toward creating correctional and detention settings that are safe and free of the danger and shame of sexual abuse.
The Honorable Reggie B. Walton, Chair