Professor on national prison rape elimination commission Professor Cindy Struckman-Johnson of the psychology department at The University of South Dakota is working to improve the living conditions of prison inmates.
Struckman-Johnson has concluded her first six months as a member of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. She was appointed to the commission by former Sen. Tom Daschle, and serves with an array of distinguished members appointed by Congress or the President who include a judge of the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., a representative from Human Rights Watch, the CEO of Gulf Oil, two correctional administrators, two law professors, and an ex-prisoner.
Over a two-year period, the commission is mandated to conduct comprehensive hearings and examine all economic, physical, and social issues related to prison rape in America. Using their findings, the commission recommends national standards to address practices for the investigation and elimination of prison rape, including the training of correctional officers, disease prevention, identification of vulnerable rape targets, and management of offenders. The Attorney General will issue final national standards based on the commission's recommendations.
"It's exciting to sit with this group and hopefully make good decisions that will profoundly affect prison reform," said Struckman-Johnson.
Struckman-Johnson participates on the commission by traveling to Washington, D.C. or by phone in the commission's monthly meetings. Although it is sometimes difficult for her to make the brief trips to the nation's capital, she notes that she has achieved a balance between her work here at The University of South Dakota and her duties on the commission.
Her most important role on the commission to date has been as an expert in prison rape research.�Recently, Struckman-Johnson and other commission members made recommendations for the methodology of a national survey of prison rape to be conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice.
Struckman-Johnson is optimistic in the ability of the commission to achieve its objectives. Despite her early worries that as a professor from South Dakota she would not hold much influence amongst those members from more powerful locations, she believes the group will continue to cooperate effectively and utilize input from all members.
"We have an eclectic group of people and we work very well together," she said.�� �