Prison Board Adopts 'Zero Tolerance' on Rape Behind Bars

JUNE 10, 2005 - Posted at 6:59 a.m. CDT

CALICO ROCK, AR - A prison spokeswoman says the zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse in the state's prison system that the Correction Board adopted yesterday won't change any practices.  But Dina Tyler says the policy does bring the system into compliance with a 2003 federal law.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act requires states, counties and cities to develop the policy and take other steps to reduce the incidence of inmate rape and sexual abuse, or risk losing federal grant money.  The Arkansas prison system receives about $800,000 per year in federal grants.

Tyler said a committee has been in place for months to address the federal mandate and the department has begun educating its prison personnel on the law.  Also, to make it easier for inmates to speak out, a hot line was activated in each of the state prisons in April.

The law requires states to track all sexual assaults in their detention facilities and report them to the federal government.

A federal commission will create national standards aimed at lowering the number of sexual assaults behind bars and form a review panel to identify the prisons where the attacks occur most frequently.  Currently, federal officials are holding public hearings around the country on the issue.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)