Preventing Prison Rape

A Letter to the Editor from Dori Lewis and Lisa Freeman of the Prisoners' Rights Project calling for safeguards to prevent prison rape was published in today's New York Times. Dori and Lisa, who have been at the forefront of the fight, have testified before Congress and are the PRP lawyers handling the Society's lawsuit regading staff sexual abuse in the State's women's prisons.

The letter is printed below:

The New York Times
Letters to the Editor

Preventing Prison Rape

To the Editor:

“Making Prisons Safer” (editorial, Sept. 10) correctly calls for the adoption of national standards to address the scourge of prison rape, but overlooks the urgent need for change in New York.

A recent federal survey revealed that New York prisoners report the nation’s highest rates of staff sexual abuse. This news is no surprise. In 2003, the Legal Aid Society sued about widespread staff sexual abuse throughout New York’s women’s prisons. Since then, New York has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the case, rather than addressing this horrific problem.

New York has also opposed the proposed standards, claiming ludicrous, hyperbolic start-up costs for compliance 20 times more than any other state surveyed (including California, with double the prison population).

New York must take action now. Rape must not be part of the penalty paid in prison.

Dori Lewis
Lisa Freeman
New York, Sept. 10, 2010

The writers are lawyers in the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society.