SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah is one of several states refusing to comply with a federal law designed to reduce sexual assaults in prison.
Gov. Gary Herbert and the governors of Idaho, Texas, Indiana and Arizona have criticized the decade-old Prison Rape Elimination Act as counterproductive and too expensive to implement.
Governors were required to notify the U.S. Department of Justice by May 15 if they were meeting the law’s standards that aim to reduce sexual abuse behind bars or if their states were working to implement them.
States can lose up to 5 percent of the money they receive through three separate federal corrections grants.
According to 2013 awards for those programs, Utah could lose about $173,000.
In a May 15 letter to the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Herbert said Utah fully supports the law’s purpose and has already implemented most of its requirements.
But some requirements “will not be implemented because they are not sound policy and in some circumstances undermine our efforts to eliminate prison rape,” Herbert wrote.
Herbert cited a provision requiring officers to announce their presence when entering an area of the prison where there are inmates of the opposite gender.
The governor said that could create a dangerous situation for officers and allow inmates to hide any sexual assaults that may be occurring.
Herbert also said that the law’s audit requirements are unnecessary, costly and eat up money that could be otherwise used for combating assault in prison.
The governor asked federal officials to work with Utah to find a solution.
Herbert’s office said Friday they had not yet received a response.
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