DOJ's Holder defends delay in prison rape standards

In March, Holder told members of a House appropriations panel that prison officials were pressuring him to scale back some of the recommendations of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), the group created by the 2003 law to examine prison assaults and propose reforms.  

"When I speak to wardens, when I speak to people who run local jails, when I speak to people who run state facilities, they look at me and they say, ‘Eric, how are we supposed to do this?'" Holder said at the time. "'If we are going to segregate people, build new facilities, do training, how are we supposed to do this?'"

Holder used most of Tuesday's five-page letter to outline the DoJ's steps to rein in prison assaults under the Obama administration, including efforts to strengthen punishments for prison rapes and help prisons treat victims of sexual assault. Regarding the national guidelines, however, the DoJ has yet to propose an amended timeline for installation. 

Considering what's at stake, many lawmakers and human rights advocates are wondering why the administration isn't moving more quickly.

"Delay," said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch and a member of the NPREC, "means more people are at risk of abuse."