Some of the criticisms of DOCS could still be addressed by the federal standards scheduled for adoption later this year. But DOCS, citing cost, has balked at some of the proposed regulations, which the U.S. Department of Justice is still finalizing.
DOCS is not alone in that skepticism. Other state's prison officials have also raised questions about the financial impact of the standards.
On the other side, advocates aiming to reduce prison sexual abuse believe the DOJ's proposed rules have watered down the protections recommended by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), which worked for six years to devise new standards.
If implemented according to the DOJ's revisions, “the proposed standards would make a difference,” NPREC commissioner Jamie Fellner, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, allows. “But it would be a wasted opportunity to make the significant difference Congress had sought. The standards could and should be much stronger.”
The NPREC’s proposed rules, for instance, emphasized the importance of limiting cross-gender pat searches to prevent the abuse of inmates by staff. A 1999 National Institute of Corrections survey showed that only the BOP and five out of 50 states routinely allowed men to pat-search women in all facili- ties. Among them, Michigan has since eliminated the practice.
However, the DOJ wrote in the proposed standards that it felt the benefits of eliminating cross-gender pat-down searches do not justify the costs of “imposing such a rule across the board,” with an exception for inmates who “previously suffered cross-gender sexual abuse while incarcerated.” Potential costs of a cross-gender pat-frisk ban could include hiring additional male or female staffers to match the inmate population.