Prof. Soohoo on Protecting Incarcerated Youth from Sexual Violence

Professor Cynthia Soohoo was recently a guest on BrianLehrer.TV to discuss the importance of full implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) which protects incarcerated individuals from sexual violence.

PREA, which was passed by Congress in 2003 requires all states to comply with national standards meant to prevent sexual assault in prisons. Currently, out of 50 states, only New Hampshire and New Jersey have certified that they are in compliance, while 41 states have promised to work on implementing the standards. But, Republican governors in seven states — Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Utah — are either ignoring or refusing to comply with the standards set forth by PREA.

Professor Soohoo points out that youth are even more vulnerable than adults to sexual assault and that in PREA there are different standards for protecting children behind bars, namely making sure they are housed separately from the adult population. Professor Soohoo and students in the International Women’s Human Rights(IWHR) Clinic have submitted a request to the New York Board of Corrections to find out what they are doing to comply with PREA, particularly when it comes to the rules affecting incarcerated youth.

Along with Chris Daley of Just Detention International and Alex Friedman of Prison Legal News, Professor Soohoo discusses the history of this movement and what it might take for PREA to come into full force.

Professor Cynthia Soohoo


Professor Cynthia Soohoo has worked on U.S. human rights issues before U.N. human rights bodies, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and in domestic courts. She was co-counsel in the landmark Alien Tort Statute case, Doe v. Karadzic and a founding board member for the U.S. Human Rights Network. She served as co-chair of the American Constitutional Society’s Working Group on International Law and the Constitution. She is the author of several articles on human rights advocacy in the United States and co-editor and contributor to BRINGING HUMAN RIGHTS HOME, a three-volume book on human rights in the United States, which received the 2008 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award.