About the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003
Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA, P.L. 108-79) in September 2003 to address the problem of sexual abuse of persons in the custody of U.S. correctional agencies.
PREA called for federal, state, and local corrections systems to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding prison rape (as defined by PREA) in prisons, jails, police lock-ups, and other confinement facilities. The Act requires development of standards for detection, prevention, reduction and punishment of prison rape.
The following is taken from the U.S. Department of Justice report releasing the final standards. Criminal Justice agencies that are required to adopt the standards are:
“For State agencies that receive grant funding from the Department to support their correctional operations, Congress has provided that the Department shall withhold 5 percent of prison-related grant funding to any State that fails to certify that it “has adopted, and is in full compliance with, the national standards,” or that fails to alternatively provide “an assurance that not less than 5 percent” of the relevant grant funding “shall be used only for the purpose of enabling the State to adopt, and achieve full compliance with, those national standards, so as to ensure that a certification [of compliance] may be submitted in future years.” 42 U.S.C. 15607(c)(2).”
“For county, municipal, and privately run agencies that operate confinement facilities, PREA lacks any corresponding sanctions for facilities that do not adopt or comply with the standards.”
“Despite the absense of statutory authority to promulgate standards that would bind State, local, and private agencies, other consequences may flow from the issuance of national standards, which could provide incentives for voluntary compliance. For example, these standards may influence the standard of care that courts will apply in considering legal and constitutional claims brought against corrections agencies and their employees arising out of allegations of sexual abuse. Moreover, agencies seeking to be accredited by the major accreditation organizations may need to comply with the standards as a condition of accreditiation.”
“Nevertheless, pivotal to the statutory scheme is a voluntary decision by State, county, local, and private correctional agencies to adopt the standards and to comply with them (or alternatively, for States, to commit to expending 5 percent of Department of Justice prison related grant funds to come into compliance in future years). In deciding whether to adopt these standards, agencies will of necessity conduct their own analyses of whether they can commit to adopting the standards in light of other demands on their correctional budgets.”
Perhaps most importantly, the report states:
“The Department cannot assume that all agencies will choose to adopt and implement these standards. An agency assessing whether to do so may choose not to based upon an assessment that, with regard to that specific agency, the costs outweigh the benefits. Such a course of action would be regrettable. The Department certainly hopes that it will not be common, and that agencies will instead consider the benefits of prison rape prevention not only to the agencies themselves but also to the inmates in their charge and to the communities to which the agencies are accountable.”
To deal with the effects of sexual violence and eventually eliminate it, correctional administrators recommend:
- Developing a department wide strategy and specific policies and programs for inmate/offender education as well as investigation, prosecution, provision of victim services, and accurate documentation of sexual assaults;
- Cultivating management, staff and inmate buy-in to the strategy;
- Developing staff in-service training programs that specifically address rape, and ensuring that staff will be protected from false allegations;
- Developing inmate/offender education programs that explain prison policies and practices regarding rape, inmate rights, and how to avoid assault