Eli Lehrer offers cautious praise for the new federal prison-rape standards:
The new federal policies take a step towards confronting this problem. They'll require tough anti-rape policies, lengthen the period in which inmates can report sexual abuse (necessary because the trauma involved can make it hard to step forward quickly), improve services for those victimized behind bars, and put into place strong protections for particularly vulnerable lesbian, gay, and transgendered inmates. Finally, all facilities will have to have their policies audited every three years.
That said, the standards have some serious holes. They don't apply to immigration lockups (even though Congress intended that they should) and still allow female guards to strip search male inmates. Although they take force in the Federal prison system immediately, states will still have a year to comply and, given the glacial pace at which the Obama Justice Department has moved to implement the standards, it's quite possible that some will take longer.
Still, within a few years, the official rape prevention rules in every correctional facility in the country will be a lot better than they were a decade ago. And, most likely, sexual assault will become less common behind bars as a result.
The problem, however, isn't going to go away until a real cultural shift takes place in America. And there's precious little sign of that happening.