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DOJ Seeks To Boost Penalties For Sexual Abuse By Prison Employees

The Justice Department is finalizing plans to overhaul the troubled Federal Bureau of Prisons, which include a recommendation to increase sentences for prison employees found guilty of sexual abuse against inmates, the New York Times reports. DOJ working groups under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco have been devising potential fixes in a sprawling system long plagued by health and safety problems, corruption, staff turnover and physical and sexual abuse that has targeted female inmates and prison workers. Monaco has been pushing federal prosecutors to crack down on sexual abuse at federal facilities, even though such crimes are often time-consuming and difficult to prove. She cited prison abuse cases as a top priority in a video call last month with U.S. Attorneys, where she introduced the bureau’s new director, Colette Peters.

Prosecutors, who are limited by federal guidelines that often result in lower sentences for people convicted of sexual abuse against prisoners than against non-prisoners, say more is needed. DOJ has asked the U.S. Sentencing Commission for changes. In August, DOJ obtained a seven-year prison term for a former chaplain at the notorious Dublin prison, a low-security facility for women near Oakland, Ca., after he was convicted of coercing female inmates to have sex with him. Such a conviction would typically carry a two-year term. The federal prison system includes 122 facilities that house about 158,000 inmates, with an annual budget of around $10 billion. Monaco said she selected Peters, in part, because she once had served as the inspector general of Oregon’s prison system, which made her more inclined to scrutinize the federal prison bureau.

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