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Memo to the Department of Justice on Prison Safety

The Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed in 2003, was supposed to protect individuals in prison from sexual assault. But seven years after its enactment, it has yet to be implemented.

Finally, this year a regulation was proposed by the Department of Justice to address the mandate from Congress, and it is currently moving through the agency’s approval process.

Building on the public comments in support of strong protections submitted to the DOJ in May, today we sent a memo reminding the Department that it must adequately measure the benefits of the regulation, not only its costs.

While the Department has commissioned a study of potential costs of complying with the proposed rule, there don’t seem to be any plans for a comparable benefits assessment. And the benefits can be great: safety precautions in prisons can result in long-term economic problems like higher recidivism, higher health care costs, and mounting litigation expenses—all of which contribute to busting state budgets.

Policy Integrity offers this memorandum as a starting point for a more comprehensive and rigorous benefits analysis as is necessary based on PREA’s statutory mandate, Executive Order No. 12,866, general administrative law principles, and best practices.