Moving Forward: Eliminating Prison Rape

Moving Forward: Eliminating Prison Rape

June 19, 2013 | Peggy Ritchie, Senior Program Specialist, NCCD

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For years, rape in prisons was swept under the carpet under the guise of consensual sex, gay sex, or a matter of prison culture. Historically, it took advocacy and human rights groups to stand up and say that in many cases this was rape.

For years, rape in prisons was swept under the carpet under the guise of consensual sex, gay sex, or a matter of prison culture. Historically, it took advocacy and human rights groups to stand up and say that in many cases this was rape.

It is not that we as administrators had blind eyes; with any major changes in systems, cultural issues are difficult to break through, and I speak from experience, having worked in the trenches as a warden and at the executive level in three national systems for more than 20 years. My journey began in the psychology department of the Arizona Department of Corrections in the 1980s with a disturbing view of physical abuse by officers and incidents of rape that were not taken seriously.

Fast forward more than 20 years, and I now have the privilege of working in the National PREA Resource Center to assist state, local, and county systems to implement Prison Rape Elimination Act standards. These past 20 years have demonstrated great improvements in the understanding of sexuality in prisons and jails, the need for a humanitarian focus on the issue, and a zero-tolerance policy by all. The challenges for systems now relate to specialized training, overcoming physical facility design issues, increased technology, and sustainability of efforts over time.

Click here to read this month’s NCCD Now feature on the PRC’s efforts to assist correctional agencies across the country to implement the national PREA standards.

Peggy Ritchie is a Senior Program Specialist at NCCD.