The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released its final report and recommendations this week. The Commission was established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003 to develop a set of policy proposals to end sexual abuse in prisons. The recommendations, though, read more like a desperate plea for basic competency in prison management. Sample a few of its groundbreaking ideas:
To begin with, every correctional agency must have a written policy mandating zero tolerance for all forms of sexual abuse in all settings, whether it is operated by the government or by a private company working under contract with the government….
Thoroughly screen all new job applicants…to prevent hiring, retaining, or promoting anyone who has engaged in sexual abuse….
Strict limits on cross-gender searches and the viewing of prisoners who are nude or performing bodily functions are necessary because of the inherently personal nature of such encounters….
Facilities have a duty to thoroughly investigate every allegation of sexual abuse without delay and to completion, regardless of whether or not the alleged victim cooperates with investigators….
The Commission urges that individuals under the age of 18 be held seperately from the general population.
To recap: Have zero tolerance for sexual abuse, don't hire people with a history of sexual abuse, don't allow cross-gender observation of nude prisoners, fully investigate alleged sexual abuses, and separate adult and juvenile prisoners.
If these suggestions seem obvious to you…well, they should. Perhaps you'd be interested in a career in corrections?
To my mind, there are two possibilities here. Either the commission has wasted years of funding and produced a vanilla, restatement-of-the-conventional-wisdom report, or the extent of safety problems in America's prisons beggars belief, making a novelty out of even the most conventional policy prosposals. Given the prevalence of stories like this, I'm inclined toward the latter conclusion.