On May 17, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) unveiled new rules for detecting, preventing, and responding to prison rape. The new standards are required under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003. The new PREA standards will affect federal, state, and local correctional institutions and will pose cost and implementation challenges to county jails. County representatives from the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association (MCAA) offered their input on initial drafts of the standards.
From a DOJ press release:
This landmark rule sets national standards for four categories of facilities: adult prisons and jails, lockups, community confinement facilities and juvenile facilities. Today’s rule is the first-ever federal effort to set standards aimed at protecting inmates in all such facilities at the federal, state and local levels. …
The standards have three clear goals: to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse.
Correctional facilities must implement required changes to meet the three goals, including: employee background screenings; restricting correctional officers of a different gender from performing certain actions on an inmate, such as a pat-down; educating prison inmates on sexual abuse issues; and having clearly defined evidence and disciplinary protocols when an alleged sexual assault occurs. Each facility must undergo a compliance audit every three years. States that refuse to comply will lose up to 5% of their federal prison funding. The press release also discusses available assistance:
To assist federal, state and local agencies in their compliance efforts, the department has funded the National Resource Center for the Elimination of Prison Rape to serve as a national resource for online and direct support, training, technical assistance, and research to assist adult and juvenile corrections, detention, and law enforcement professionals in combating sexual abuse in confinement. …
The department is also continuing grantmaking to support state and local demonstration projects aimed at combating sexual abuse in confinement facilities, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. In addition, the National Institute of Corrections will develop electronic and web-based resource materials based on the standards set forth in the final rule.
Regulatory Impact Assessement of the Rule (summarizes costs and benefits)