The Roanoke Times
Once tough-on-crime politicians and their constituents lock up criminals, they don't want to know of, or hear from, them.
Most people have little knowledge of the more than 1 million inmates sexually assaulted in U.S. prisons over the past 20 years. Or the 11 prisoners who died in restraints during the 1990s. Or that inmates committed more than 34,000 assaults against other prisoners in a 12-month period spanning 1999 and 2000.
Almost all 2 million inmates eventually leave the prison and jail system. When they do, public safety can only be better served if they have not been subjected to an abusive and inhumane system, coming out more hardened than when they went in.
To examine conditions inside the nation's prisons and jails, a high-level, privately appointed panel this month launched a yearlong study of violence, sexual abuse, crowding and inhumane treatment in the nation's lockups.
The task of the commission, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, has garnered the attention of national lawmakers and the Justice Department.
After holding several public hearings around the country, the commission - organized by the New York group, the Vera Institute of Justice - plans to recommend prison reforms from local to federal levels.
The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's prisons is a national effort to clarify the nature and extent of violence, sexual abuse, degradation, and other serious safety failures and abuses in prisons and jails throughout the United States, as well as the consequences for prisoners, corrections officers, and the public at large.