News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 20, 2014

MONEY MATTER: Pence opts Indiana out of another Federal program

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.

“This would require a redirection of millions of tax dollars currently supporting other critical needs for Indiana,” Pence said in a May 15 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

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.

 “The remedy is to hire more staff and erect more barriers, but that takes money,” said Luce. “This is another unfunded mandate from the federal government.”

The law's advocates dispute that contention. They argue the federal government has spent $40 million to help states come into compliance with the law and that prisons and jails will have until 2017 to put the new standards in place before any financial penalties would kick in.

“A lot of money has already been invested and it's still not clear what states are doing with the money and how much closer we are to decreasing the number of prison rapes and assaults,” said Carmen Daugherty, policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice, a non-profit that advocates for juvenile justice reform.

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.

Bryan Pearson, who oversees compliance for the state Department of Correction, said a focus on reducing sexual assaults in prisons and jails started in 2003 and intensified when the Justice Department reported seven years later that nearly a third of youths in state juvenile prisons said they'd been sexually abused while in custody.

Prison officials questioned those findings but still accelerated efforts to reduce sexual assault and to encourage inmates to report it. The results are difficult to measure. Less than one percent of adult prison inmates in Indiana have reported abuse to officials, though Pearson acknowledged the numbers may be low because of victims' reluctance to report abuse.

In 2012 - the latest year available - there were 31 substantiated cases of sexual abuse of adults and juveniles in the state prisons. There were 32 substantiated cases in 2011.

The most recent federal survey found that 4 percent of all state and federal prison inmates in the U.S. reported being sexually victimized by another inmate or a staff member in 2011 - which comes out to over 87,000 victims of sexual assault in a single year.

Pearson said the numbers don't tell the full story. “There's been a cultural change in our prisons,” he said. “Before we were reactionary, responding to reports of assault. Now we're proactive.”

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.”

Pence's language was more constrained but just as critical. “There is little empirical data showing these (federal) standards to be effective,” he wrote.

Like Perry, he urged Holder to give states more discretion to implement their own policies and practices to prevent sexual assault of inmates.

The Justice Department has yet to release information on the number of governors who met the May 15 deadline to report compliance with the law. The Department has until September to release the information.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best
NDN Video
LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB'
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity