Some states don’t comply with prison rape elimination law

McClatchy Washington BureauMay 28, 2014 

— Florida, Idaho, Texas and four other states, as well as the Northern Mariana Islands, face the loss of federal funds because they have failed to meet requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, Justice Department officials said Wednesday.

The states had until May 15 to report compliance with the federal standards intended to “prevent, detect, and respond to prison rape.” By failing to either certify complete compliance, or attest to their progress, a state could forfeit 5 percent of any Justice Department grant funds that it would otherwise receive for prison purposes.

“I must be clear that the jurisdictions that do not comply with the standards...will be held accountable, as we are required to do by law,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole told reporters Wednesday.

The other states who failed to comply are Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah.

Passed in 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act was followed up with standards finalized by the Justice Department in 2012. The standards, for instance, ban patdowns of female inmates by male correctional officers, prevent juveniles from being housed with adult inmates and requires that inmates be screened for their potential to be abused.

In a letter to the Justice Department, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter asserted “it would cost the state millions of dollars” to meet all the new federal requirements. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, likewise previously declared the rules would be too costly.

Mary Lou Leary, principal deputy assistant general, said Wednesday that several governors had also cited new requirements for staffing ratios in juvenile facilities. Leary added, though, that these staffing requirements don’t take effect until 2017.

“We will continue to work closely with them to make sure they have the tools they need to come into full compliance,” Leary said.

Leary said no estimates were yet available for how much money the affected states might forfeit.

Two states, New Hampshire and New Jersey, declared that they are already in full compliance with the new standards.

Correctional administrators reported 8,763 specific allegations of sexual victimization in prisons, jails and other adult correctional facilities in 2011, Justice Department officials reported in January. In 2011-12, an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent jail inmates reported being sexually victimized in the past 12 months.

The extent of sexual abuse in prison is widely believed to be significantly under-reported.

“It’s a culture that’s been embedded for many, many years,” Leary said. “It’s appalling.”

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