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Az fails to file prison rape reports, again
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Az fails to file prison rape reports, again

  • Arizona officials insist that the state is in compliance with the prison rape prevention act. But they disagree with the requirement that they spend a portion of federal grant funds on the work, and said federal officials did not allow the state enough time to complete audits of its facilities.
    Jenn Vargas/FlickrArizona officials insist that the state is in compliance with the prison rape prevention act. But they disagree with the requirement that they spend a portion of federal grant funds on the work, and said federal officials did not allow the state enough time to complete audits of its facilities.

For the second year in a row, Arizona failed to file reports complying with federal prison rape prevention laws, according to the Justice Department. Last year, the state lost more than $200,000 for not proving compliance. Justice has not determined how much, if any, might be withheld from Arizona this year.

Arizona was one of just five states that did not submit paperwork before a May 15 deadline this year.

A prisoner-rights advocate said Arizona’s noncompliance was purposeful, but an official in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office insisted the state has met the standards – just not the paperwork deadline.

“We requested a brief extension … such an extension could not be granted,” Kathryn King, deputy general counsel to the governor, said in a letter to federal officials in May.

King said that eight Arizona correctional facilities passed Prison Rape Elimination Act audits this year, but that the state did not schedule an audit of a juvenile facility in time to meet the deadline.

PREA was passed in 2003 and is designed to “eradicate prisoner rape in all types of correctional facilities,” according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The law, which was implemented in August 2012, applies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.

Fiscal year 2014 was the first in which jurisdictions had to show compliance with the law, which was passed in 2003. Arizona has failed to meet the standards in each of the first two years.

States that don’t comply risk the loss of federal grant funds. The Arizona Department of Corrections lost more than $200,000 in 2014 for failing to meet the requirements of the law.

King said in her May letter that a PREA audit of one of Arizona’s juvenile detention facilities was scheduled for the first week in June, which was why the state asked for an extension.

Without it, state corrections officials would not be able to review the results and determine “if we can certify that Arizona is in full compliance,” King said in the letter.

But the executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform said state corrections officials intentionally missed the deadline, and that they “deliberately decided not to continue to try to meet the standards.”

The advocate, Donna Leone Hamm, said there were few PREA provisions implemented, but “the Department of Corrections arbitrarily decided that they were not going to comply, and instead were going to risk whatever fines or sanctions were imposed.”

PREA requires that states use at least 5 percent of Justice Department grant funds to ensure compliance, but King’s letter said that expenditure is not needed in Arizona.

“Because we believe Arizona is in compliance with PREA, the use of federal funds in this manner is simply not necessary at this time,” her letter said.

More than the loss of federal funds is at stake though. Hamm, a former lower court judge in Coconino and Maricopa counties, said some PREA requirements, such as the removal of shower and bathroom doors, are double-edged swords and are pushing some inmates to complain about the safety measures.

“Some of the prisoners were complaining … because prisoners have very little opportunity for privacy,” she said. Bathrooms are “one of the few areas where they could have privacy.”

The Arizona Department of Corrections did not respond to requests for comments on PREA, directing all inquiries to King’s letter.

A 1992 study by the Federal Bureau of Prisons estimated that between 9 and 20 percent of inmates had been sexually assaulted. After PREA, that number had dropped to an estimated 4 percent of inmates in federal lockup and 3.2 percent of jail inmates nationwide by 2011-2012, according to the a 2013 report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Sexual assault behind bars

Under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the federal government reports annually on “sexual victimization” of inmates by other inmates and prison staff. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, claims of assaults in federal prisons and in Arizona state prisons in 2011-2012 were:

  • Federal facilities: 4 percent of all inmates.
  • Arizona State Prison Complex Douglas: 1.2 percent
  • ASPC Eyman: 4.1 percent
  • ASPC Perryville: 9.1 percent
  • ASPC Tucson: 3.7 percent
  • ASPC Yuma: 1.9 percent
  • Florence Correctional Center: 1.0 percent
  • La Palma Correctional Center: 0.0 percent
  • Red Rock Correctional Center: 2.9 percent

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