By Ankita Rao
Religion News Service
(RNS) Evangelicals are calling on the Obama administration to enact long-promised prison reforms, saying the incarcerated deserve protection from violence and rape.
In 2003, former president George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which aimed to lower the estimated 13 percent of inmates sexually assaulted each year.
The bill called for the Department of Justice to research prison rape and requires prisons to establish prevention programs.
Now, the National Association of Evangelicals is urging the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to follow up on the standards proposed.
NAE President Leith Anderson and Director of Government Affairs Galen Carey wrote on May 10 to Attorney General Eric Holder that "those behind bars deserve the same protections against violence as those on the outside."
The NAE pushed for the rape commission to adopt the standards from the 2003 act regardless of the government's tight budget, suggesting that the reforms will reduce recidivism and lead to cost savings.
In 2003, the bill drew support from varied religious and advocacy groups including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Christian Coalition of America, the NAACP and Human Rights Watch.
Like the NAE, the Human Rights Watch's Jamie Fellner reaffirmed the organization's stance in a Jan. 5 letter to Attorney General Holder--saying that "tens of thousands of adults and juveniles are still sexually abused each year because officials have not instituted basic measures to protect them."
According to the Department of Justice Web site, Holder appointed members to the review panel on Jan. 1 in order to assist the Bureau of Justice Statistics in identifying common characteristics of prison systems and prisoners involved in prison rape.