Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003 hoping to contain a national epidemic. Nearly a decade later, however, the problem apparently persists.

The Department of Justice this month finally got around to releasing a 2008 survey in which one in 10 state prison inmates reported that they had been sexually assaulted while serving time.

But there is some good news. Last week, the Justice Department finalized regulations to address the problem of abuse.

And although its new rules do not apply to federal immigration detention facilities, where detainees are just as much in need of protection, the Department of Homeland Security now says that it will move to adopt new regulations to cover those facilities as well.

That’s a welcome and long-overdue change. Until recently, Homeland Security took an even more anemic approach to the problem than Justice, adopting standards that often lacked real teeth or exempted facilities from compliance.

Any regulations are a start, not a panacea. But given that this marks the first time the government has issued national standards to help end sexual abuse in prisons and immigration detention facilities, it is an immeasurable improvement.