Today is the deadline for public comments on a Department of Justice regulation that would protect individuals in prison from sexual assault.
Policy Integrity contributed economic arguments to support strong standards. The comments aim to ensure that the Department adequately measures the benefits of the regulation.
While running prisons safely costs money because administrators must take steps like eliminating cross-gender supervision in high-risk situations, when corners are cut, there are economic consequences as well. When sexual assaults in prisons spike because of inadequate safety, it can result in long-term problems like higher recidivism, higher health care costs, and mounting litigation expenses, contributing to busting state budgets.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed back in 2003, was supposed to address this important safety issue. However, that law hasn’t yet been implemented – the DOJ is undertaking its first attempt to put the law into effect.
The costs of unsafe prisons can easily add up to more than the costs of providing basic safety. Ignoring the problem is a penny-wise approach that can lead to bigger bills down the road.