The Corner

Prison Rape Standards Still Waiting for Approval

To almost nobody’s surprise, Attorney General Eric Holder has delayed the adoption of congressionally mandated standards to prevent sexual abuse behind bars. The standards, already long overdue, are exceptionally modest. They simply require detention facilities to do the things — monitor inmates closely, separate the most vulnerable — that just about everyone who works in corrections agrees represent best practices anyway.

But corrections professionals have asked for revisions on the basis of expense (yes, the standards will cost money to implement) and the theoretical difficulty of implementing them in every detail (although well-run prisons use them already). But these objections are, at least sometimes, a cover for deeper problems. Particularly in the most chaotic prisons, turning a blind eye towards sexual abuse helps keep tensions between racial-supremacist gangs under control. In juvenile facilities, furthermore, a growing body of evidence of guards abusing their charges has some guards and administrators rightly nervous that tougher standards will reveal deeper problems. Finally, society’s refusal to take sexual abuse in detention seriously, combined with the utterly distasteful nature of the problem, makes it something that many would prefer to sweep under the rug. The slow pace of the process so far — for example, even though nobody openly opposes the idea of standards, getting Congress to approve exceedingly modest legislation took almost two years of work — shows that many would prefer that it remain sub rosa.

Unpleasant as it may be, however, sexual abuse in houses of detention is a serious social problem. Holder has a decent set of standards in front of him. He should end the delays and implement them.

Eli Lehrer is national director of the Center on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate at the Heartland Institute.

Eli Lehrer — Eli Lehrer is president and co-founder of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank. He oversees R Street’s central headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as its field offices in ...

Most Popular


On Trade, No One Is Waiting for Washington

President Donald Trump’s flips and flops on trade are now as ubiquitous as his 5:00 a.m. tweets. Many predicted that trade-expansion efforts would come to a standstill and world commerce would suffer amidst all the uncertainty. Instead, the precise opposite has happened. In the last few months, it’s become ... Read More
National Security & Defense

Trump’s Syria Quandary

President Trump raised eyebrows recently when he ended a tweet lauding the airstrikes he’d ordered against chemical-weapons facilities in Syria with the words “mission accomplished.” The phrase, of course, became infamous in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, when President Bush used it in a speech ... Read More

Confirm Pompeo

What on earth are the Democrats doing? President Trump has nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo, eminently qualified by any reasonable standard, to be America’s 70th secretary of state. And yet the Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, have perverted the advice and consent clause of the Constitution into a ... Read More
PC Culture

People Are Losing Their Minds Over Starbucks

We can all easily imagine circumstances in which a manager of a coffee shop or restaurant might properly call the police to ask them to remove loiterers. These are places of business. There’s nothing wrong in principle with calling the cops on non-customers who are taking up space. And there’s nothing wrong ... Read More
PC Culture

The Dark Side of the Starbucks Stand-Down

By now the story is all over America. Earlier this month, two black men entered a Starbucks store in Philadelphia. They were apparently waiting for a friend before ordering — the kind of thing people do every day — and one of the men asked to use the restroom. A Starbucks employee refused, saying the restroom ... Read More