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May 09, 2003
RICH LOWRY HAS A QUESTION THAT I'D LIKE TO HEAR ANSWERED -- by Bill Lockyer and John Ashcroft, for starters:
Our tolerance for prison rape, considered a subject fit for late-night TV humor, is a great mystery. We profess to abhor rape, to adore personal dignity, to uphold the rights of the downtrodden -- yet we sentence tens of thousands of men every year to the most bestial kind of abuse, without a second thought beyond the occasional chuckle.
The silence surrounding this national shame has been broken by a right-left coalition in Washington that is pushing federal prison-rape legislation, likely to pass and be signed into law this year. It will be a first step to alleviating the problem, if not the end of the vile jokes. . . .
The bill seems impossible to oppose, but that hasn't stopped elements of the Bush Justice Department from resisting. They worry that the bill trespasses on federalism principles, even though the Supreme Court has held that deliberate indifference to rape violates the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
I don't see the federalism issue here -- you've got state action, and a violation of constitutional rights. So where's Ashcroft on this?
UPDATE: Reader Ken Landa has a suggestion:
Maybe the energy of those intent on protecting those vile consensual-sodomy prohibitions could be channelled into doings something about _forced_ sodomy in penal settings.
UPDATE: TalkLeft has more on this.