Impact unclear on how new federal regulations aimed at fighting sexual assault in prisons will affect Kansas

By Shaun Hittle, LJWorld
May 18, 2012

New regulations issued by the Obama administration Thursday could affect how Kansas prisons handle sexual assaults.

The new regulations -- under development since the passage of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA -- include mandatory screening, enforcement and prevention regulations designed to reduce sexual assaults by staff and other inmates in prisons nationwide.

The regulations apply to federal prisons and detention facilities. But states that don’t adopt the policies will lose portions of Department of Justice grant funds.

Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Jan Lunsford said they were aware of the new regulations, but did not have additional information to release about any future changes in Kansas prison operations.

The Obama regulations come a day after the release of a Bureau of Justice Statistics report finding that nearly 10 percent of those released from correctional facilities report being sexually assaulted.

A 2010 Journal-World article into sexual assaults in Kansas prisons found there were about 120 sexual assault allegations reported annually in Kansas prisons and juvenile detention centers during a four-year period. However, less than 14 percent of those allegations -- made against staff and inmates -- were substantiated by prison investigations.

The PREA regulations are a welcome step, say anti-rape advocates.

“We have fought long and hard for the PREA standards,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of the prison rights advocacy group Just Detention International. “They have the potential to cut prisoner rape dramatically.”

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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