DHS targets detention center rapes

The Department of Homeland Security is moving to enact new regulations designed to stop sexual attacks against people being held in the agency’s immigration detention centers and holding cells.

A final rule to be published Friday overhauls training standards for officers and other federal employees assigned to facilities operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The regulations, developed in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and a 2012 directive from President Obama, also set new requirements for audits and compliance review of the facilities.

“DHS is committed to upholding a culture that promotes safety and refuses to tolerate abuse,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said. “This rule will strengthen standards in DHS confinement facilities and ensure robust oversight.”

The new regulations will take effect in 60 days.

They span category areas ranging from education to risk identification and other preventive controls to standards governing assault reporting, medical treatment and discipline, according to the 356-page rule.

Implementing the rule is expected to cost $57.4 million over the next eight years, but the measure would also produce an array of unquantifiable benefits, the agency concluded following a lengthy public comment period.

“Sexual violence, against any victim, is an assault on human dignity and an affront to American values,” the agency said. “DHS is fully committed to its zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse in its confinement facilities, and these standards will strengthen that policy across DHS confinement facilities.”