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It’s not okay

July 1, 2009

Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship-U.S. has been a tireless champion on this issue from day one. As Pat has said, no one feels particularly comfortable talking about prison rape. It is a deep, dark secret in our prisons in the U.S. and beyond.

When most people hear about prison rape they look the other way. But it is a reality. This federal commission has agreed that it’s time to examine this problem and get to the bottom of the problem. There are some daunting findings in the report issued by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released on June 22, 2009. Some surprising facts include the frequency of prison rape in U.S. prisons: one in 20 are raped during their time behind bars. But there are increasing incidents of the involvement of correctional staff in these acts of violence against prisoners, either directly or indirectly. 

No matter what the public’s view of prisoners who serve time in our prisons or jails there is no one sentenced to prison rape—ever. The Washington Post got it right in their editorial of June 22, 2009. This is no joke. The need to address the reality of prison rape is real reflecting on the greater need to be fully aware of how we treat any prisoners behind bars in America. There are standards and those standards must be based on basic human rights that we hold dear in the United States. The federal commission has issued its report which includes recommendations and the setting of standards. This is far from the end of this problem. As the Post states now additional action is needed in Congress and then by the White House. A bi-partisan commitment to cleaning up this problem is needed. Working across party lines occurred during the work of this commission now it must continue.

Some might say that the problem of prison rape has nothing to do with restorative justice. They are wrong. Humane, ethical treatment of prisoners goes hand in hand with systemic reform of the criminal justice system based on restorative justice. There is always a balance.

For more complete information on prison rape and the findings of the federal commission go to the Prison Fellowship website at


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