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Justice: Prisons to step up anti-rape efforts (with video from Just Detention International)

BY JESSE J. HOLLAND, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration ordered federal, state and local officials Thursday to adopt zero tolerance for prison rape as it issued mandatory screening, enforcement and prevention regulations designed to reduce the number of inmates who suffer sexual victimization at the hands of other prisoners and prison staff.

Anti-rape advocates and victims of prison rape, while saying the standards are not perfect, cheered the new regulations. The rules have been under development since Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003 to fight rape and sexual victimization in the nation's prisons, jails and halfway houses. The regulations were announced only minutes after the Justice Department unveiled a new survey of former state and local prisoners that showed that almost one in every 10 reported at least one incident of sexual victimization by prison staff or other inmates.

Garrett Cunningham was raped in a Texas prison by a guard in 2000, and now works with Just Detention International, an anti-prison rape group. "If strong national standards had been in place when I was in prison, my abuse may have never happened. Now that the standards have been released, we can make sure it never happens again," said Cunningham, who testified to Congress about his ordeal.

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