Left, Right United on Fighting Prison Rape Epidemic

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Groups from both left and right stood united on Capitol Hill over the rampant rate of rape in prison. Regardless of political persuasion, all agree the statistics are shocking.

At least 60,000 sexual assaults happen every year behind bars, affecting one in 20 adult inmates and one in eight juveniles.

Marilyn Shirley was serving a four-year prison term for a drug crime when she said she was brutally raped and sodomized by a prison guard.

"It was bad, and this could happen to anybody. People don't realize, it could be your wife, your son, your daughter. It's very easy for this to happen," Shirley said.

That's why conservative groups like Prison Fellowship joined liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Tuesday.

"One-hundred-nineteen adults and six juveniles per day [are] sexually assaulted. And that's appalling. No matter what crime somebody's done, the sentence doesn't include being raped," Prison Fellowship vice president Pat Nolan said.

Prison Fellowship vice president Pat Nolan -- who is also a former prison inmate -- spoke with CBN News about what the government must do to fight prison rape.  Click play for his comments, following Paul Strand's report.

Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, explained why the left and the right are taking a stand for the same thing.

"These diverse groups are completely united around this basic issue of constitutional and human rights," Winter said.

"Oftentimes, when an inmate reports a rape, they're told 'man up; fight or take it; it's your choice.' And nothing (is) done to help them. It's not taken seriously," Nolan said.

These groups from both sides gathered at a Washington news conference to ask Attorney General Eric Holder to stop sitting on a raft of reforms that would seriously cut the rate of rape in prisons.

The U.S. Department of Justice has had the list of reforms for a year, but they've been trapped in bureaucratic red tape.

"That seems to be driven by corrections folk who think that it would be too expensive or too inconvenient to put some backbone into stopping prison rape," Winter said.

"The bureaucracy's just dragging its feet, doing a slow walk to the mound, because, frankly, prisons don't like anybody looking over their shoulder. But, frankly, that's the only way that we'll stop this, is holding them accountable," Nolan said.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.