The Justice Department on Thursday issued new federal rules aimed at “zero tolerance” for sexual assaults in prisons, says the New York Times. The regulations, issued after years of discussions among officials and prisoner advocacy groups, address a problem that a new government study found may afflict one out of every 10 prisoners. Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and the rules to carry it out are the first to address federal, state and local prisons and jails, including institutions holding juveniles.
The standards are binding on federal prisons, and states that do not comply could lose 5 percent of their federal financing. In enacting the law, Congress asked the prison system to address the problem without imposing a “substantial” cost. The rules may cost as much as $7 billion over the next 15 years, with federal grants available for demonstration projects. The standards focus on prevention, supervision and changing the prison culture.