DOJ Criticized for 'Watered Down' Prison Rape Rules

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WASHINGTON - Frustration is growing over the Obama administration's handling of legal issues, from prosecuting terrorists in criminal courts to upholding laws passed by Congress.

Now, the Justice Department's new rape prevention standards for American prisons are under fire.  Read the proposed changes here.

The rules go into effect April 4, but several groups -- including members of the former National Prison Rape Elimination Commission -- feel the standards are too weak to effectively prevent sexual assault among inmates.

From Convict to Victim

For Keith Deblasio, walking outdoors with his mom and dog is something he doesn't take for granted. Sixteen years ago, he landed in federal prison for bank embezzlement and fraud.

"I wasn't doing anymore than every other government official does every day which is add to the deficit. I kind of justified it that way," Deblasio recalled.

He went into the federal correction system young and healthy with a five year sentence. But Deblasio ended up getting what he calls a "life sentence" after being raped by another inmate.

"The first time I resisted physically," he recalled.

But he said he could only fight so much, "Because I knew there were other inmates watching -- other gang members."

The rape continued multiple times for weeks. Then, Deblasio found out he was HIV positive.

Action Needed

An estimated 60,500 -- or one in 20 -- inmates in U.S. prisons are sexually assaulted every year, according to the Justice Department. In juvenile facilities, the rate is about one in eight.

"How can we call ourselves a moral nation when we allow this to be done to our daughters, brothers, fathers and children?" asked Prison Fellowship vice president Pat Nolan.

At a recent news conference in Washington, D.C., groups across the political spectrum -- from the National Evangelical Association to the American Civil Liberties Union -- used Deblasio's story to bring attention to prison rape.

"We call upon our government to fulfill not only the political mandate that they received from Congress, but what we believe is a divine mandate," said Galen Carey of the National Evangelical Association.

Opponents feel the Justice Department's proposed changes in standards would be a step back in solving the growing prison rape problem.

"Even without the HIV, the scars of an assault from this nature are far and beyond what anyone should be sentenced to," he said.

The Department of Justice has not responded to the growing opposition to its new rape standards. Requests from CBN News for comments were also unanswered.

*Originally broadcast on March 30, 2011.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at