Criminal Justice

Refusal To Comply With Federal Rape Law Could Affect Indiana

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May 28, 2014 —

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana risks losing 5 percent of federal grants for corrections because state officials refuse to comply with the federal rape law.

Gov. Mike Pence wrote a letter on May 15 informing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Indiana won’t try to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act – passed with bipartisan support by congress in 2003.

The governors of Texas, Idaho, Arizona and Utah also wrote letters of non-compliance on May 15 – the day states had to inform the Department of Justice that their states had either met the standards or were actively working towards that goal.

On June 20, 2012 the Department of Justice created standards for four types of facilities – juvenile, adult prisons and jails, lockups, and community confinement facilities. The standards focused on preventing, detecting, and responding to sexual abuse behind bars.

Pence’s press secretary referred questions to Indiana Department of Correction officials, who did not respond to several messages for comment.

But in his letter, Pence said that “a number of PREA guidelines conflict with other federal regulations, as well as state laws and other nationally recognized detention standards,” but did not list any specific violations.

Under the standards, each detention facility needs to be audited to certify it is following procedure. Also, an audit must be performed once every three years.

According to the letter, Pence said, “There has been no opportunity to audit all of Indiana’s 25 facilities, and 115 lockups, so it is not possible to report accurately the extent to which Indiana has achieved compliance.” He said there are not enough certified auditors nationwide to audit a small number of facilities in the “short timeframe.”

Pence also said to comply, Indiana would have to hire additional staff and install new equipment and resources, which “would require a redirection of millions of tax dollars currently supporting other critical needs for Indiana.”

But federal officials say the law is important. “Eliminating prison rape is a priority of the U.S. Department of Justice because we believe that sexual abuse is a crime, and should not be the punishment for a crime,” the agency said in a February letter to governors.

The law allows federal officials to withhold 5 percent of three grants from states that don’t comply. State officials did not return calls seeking information about how much money Indiana could lose if it doesn’t meet the requirements.

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