Sex Crimes

Inmate advocates worry about fate of federal law meant to eliminate rape in prisons

In this photo taken Oct. 17, 2014, offenders walk in view of a poster explaining how to help prevent or report sexual assault at the Washington Corrections Center For Women in Gig Harbor, Wash. A 2003 federal law was meant to put a stop to sexual assault in the nation’s prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers and more than $110 million in state and federal taxpayer money has been spent to help states tackle the problem. By last fall, every state was supposed to have dozens of new standards in place, ranging from increased training of staff about sex abuse policies to procedures meant to help inmates safely report attacks. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

In this photo taken Oct. 17, 2014, offenders walk in view of a poster explaining how to help prevent or report sexual assault at the Washington Corrections Center For Women in Gig Harbor, Wash. A 2003 federal law was meant to put a stop to sexual assault in the nation’s prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers and more than $110 million in state and federal taxpayer money has been spent to help states tackle the problem. By last fall, every state was supposed to have dozens of new standards in place, ranging from increased training of staff about sex abuse policies to procedures meant to help inmates safely report attacks. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)  (The Associated Press)

When Congress passed a law in 2003 aimed at ending sexual assault in U.S. prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers, survivors were hopeful that it would help solve the long-ignored problem.

Now, some of the inmate advocacy groups and rape survivors worry that a proposal to reduce the law's financial penalties will severely damage it. Its sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, vows to re-introduce it in the new GOP-controlled Congress.

He said the funds include grants for worthy programs, such as ones that support rape and domestic violence victims outside of prison. He says the law should be more narrowly tailored to affect money for prison construction, operations and administration.

Advocates say the measure is the latest sign that the law's implementation is too slow.