Symposium on prison rape to coincide with national commission meeting

Author: Michael O. Garvey

A symposium on the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. March 31 (Thursday) in the University of Notre Dame Law School Courtroom.The symposium, sponsored by the Law Schools Journal of Legislation, will coincide with a meeting of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which also will be held March 31 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in McKenna Hall.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is the first piece of federal legislation concerning sexual assault behind bars. The law calls for the gathering of national statistics on the problem; the development of policies for states to address prisoner rape; the establishment of a review panel to hold annual hearings; and the provision of grants to states to combat the problem. One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other prisoners. Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male prison staff, reach as high as one in four in some prisons.

Symposium panelists will be Lara Stemple, a human rights lawyer and executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape; Elizabeth Alexander, director of the American Civil Liberties Unions National Prison Project; and Helen Eigenberg, professor and director of the School of Social and Community Services at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

Of the nine members who serve on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, three were appointed by President Bush, including Nicole Stelle Garnett, associate professor of law in the Notre Dame Law School, and John A. Kaneb, a Trustee and benefactor of the University.Among those making presentations to the commission on March 31 will be Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, director ofCatholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston and 2004 recipient of Notre Dames highest honor, the Laetare Medal; Robert Beckman, prosecuting attorney for LaPorte County, Ind.; David Donahue, director of Indianas Department of Corrections; Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, president of the Prison Reform Advocacy Center; Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, founder and chief executive officer of LETRA, Inc.; and Nancy Zang, regional administrator of Michigans Department of Corrections.

Both the symposium and the commission meeting are free and open to the public.

Contact: Carol Jambor-Smith, director of external relations of the Notre Dame Law School at 574-631-6891 or

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