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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Pence: Indiana won’t comply with prison rape law"

Maureen Hayden, writing here for the Goshen News, reports in a long story:

INDIANAPOLIS — Corrections officials say they’ve spent a decade working to reduce sexual assaults in state prisons and local jails, but their efforts aren’t enough to satisfy the federal government.

Late last week, Gov. Mike Pence told the U.S. Justice Department the state won’t meet a deadline to certify that all prisons and county jails comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.

The major sticking point is money. The state needs an estimated $20 million – another $4.5 million for counties – to add the staff and equipment required by the law. * * *

His decision may cost the state and local governments about $350,000 a year in federal corrections funds as a penalty for failing to comply with the law.

But that loss pales in comparison to the price of meeting the Justice Department’s standards. According to the Federal Register, a county would spend about $50,000 to upgrade its jail to comply.

“The goal is worthy but the costs are impossible to meet,” said Steve Luce, head of the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, whose members oversee the state’s 92 county jails.

The law would require the state to increase staffing at four juvenile prison facilities to prevent sexual assaults, costing about $5.4 million for up to 120 additional guards.

One of the costliest measures prohibits “cross-gender viewing,” and requires that inmates be allowed to do things like shower and change out of view of guards of the opposite sex.

More from the story:
Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003 with strong bipartisan support. It requires institutions that receive federal money to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual violence behind bars and use rigorous tactics to prevent it. Among other measures, it requires the screening of inmates to separate predators from potential victims, and requires prisons and jails to provide multiple channels for inmates to report sexual abuse, including allowing them to report abuse anonymously.

But these rules for implementation of the 2003 weren’t finished until June 2012, and standards for checking compliance in state facilities weren't done until August 2013.

The delay has caused problems. States, including Indiana, increased efforts to reduce sexual assault of inmates after the law passed but now fall short of the new federal requirements. The rules cover 128 pages and include 52 detailed standards that every facility must meet.

Of Indiana’s two-dozen state prisons, only eight are certified as complying with the law. That includes just one of the state’s four juvenile detention facilities. * * *

Indiana isn’t alone in its decision to opt out of compliance with the federal law. Last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry informed the Justice Department that his state wouldn’t comply with what he called a “counterproductive and unnecessarily cumbersome and costly regulatory mess.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 20, 2014 04:38 PM
Posted to Indiana Government