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"Disappointment" as Indiana Refuses Prison Rape Rules

PHOTO: Those who work to prevent sexual assault in Indiana say they are disappointed that Gov. Mike Pence has chosen not to comply with federal standards to prevent prison rape. Photo credit: Kevin Connors/morguefile.
PHOTO: Those who work to prevent sexual assault in Indiana say they are disappointed that Gov. Mike Pence has chosen not to comply with federal standards to prevent prison rape. Photo credit: Kevin Connors/morguefile.
June 4, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Concerns are being raised about Gov. Mike Pence's refusal to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Indiana's governor has told U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that meeting the federal mandate isn't feasible because the standards are too expensive to enforce. But Chris Daley, deputy executive direcor for Just Detention International, said most states have embraced the measures intended to prevent sexual assault.

"To the degree that Governor Pence is not doing so, he's taking Indiana out of step with the country in terms of what corrections practices are today," Daley said, "and he's moving the state backward when he doesn't need to."

The standards place strict limitations on prison staff viewing young people while undressed and include protections for vulnerable populations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender youths or sexual-assault survivors. Pence claims these limits would require additional staff, equipment and resources.

By not complying, Indiana loses about $345,000 a year in federal funding.

At the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, interim chief executive Jessica White said every victim of sexual assault deserves an advocate. She said she is hopeful the state can work with the federal government to find a solution so people in prison who need help can get it.

"They deserve the same rights that anyone else would," she said. "And if you're not incarcerated, you do have access to advocates - we have rape crisis centers around the state - and we just want to make sure that individuals who are incarcerated have those same human rights."

Daley said one in 10 former inmates reported being sexually assaulted during his or her time behind bars. Research has consistently found that Indiana's correctional facilities have higher rates of abuse than the national average, he said.

"In the most recent report on prisons, the Rockville Correctional Facility, which is a women's facility, had a rate of abuse almost twice the national average," he said. "The Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility, which holds girls, had a rate of abuse almost over three times the national average."

An Indiana Department of Correction spokesman said the system has a rape-complaint coordinator in every prison and has implemented other prevention measures. Indiana is one of seven states that have said they will not comply with the federal regulations.

Information about the Prison Rape Elimination Act is online at prearesourcecenter.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN