Prison Rape Elimination Act FEDERAL LAW

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PREA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), 42 U.S.C. 15601 et seq., is the first United States federal law passed dealing with the sexual assault of prisoners.  The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 4, 2003. PREA requires the Attorney General to promulgate regulations that adopt national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape. PREA established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (Commission), and in June 2004 nine commissioners were appointed to carry out a comprehensive legal and factual study of the penological, physical, mental, medical, social, and economic impacts of prison rape in the United States, and to recommend national standards to the President, Congress and the U.S. Attorney General. The Commission was a major component of the PREA legislation and it was given subpoena powers as well as authorization to conduct a broad based study of prison rape in the United States. In 2005 the Commission received federal funds to begin the implementation of the mandated provisions of the 2003 law that established the panel. The panel obtained information from a variety of sources, including a round of public hearings in locations nationwide. The first public hearing was held in Notre Dame, Indiana on March 31, 2005. Hearings continued into at least late 2007 in other locations, including Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco, where commissioners heard from victims of prison rape as well as federal lawmakers.  After seeking outside input from aforementioned sources and others the Commission announced the release of "draft standards for the reduction of prison rape" on May 5, 2008. Following a public comment period the standards were eventually incorporated into the final report. The Commission released its recommended national standards in a report dated June 23, 2009, and subsequently disbanded, pursuant to the statute. The Commission recommended four sets of national standards for eliminating prison rape and other forms of sexual abuse. The purpose of this law is to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment in confinement facilities and applies to all federal, state and local prisons, jails, police lock-ups, juvenile facilities, private facilities and community settings such as residential facilities.

In 2009 the Attorney General PREA Workgroup was established to review the standards one by one and established a framework for public comments on the standards.    On March 10, 2010, the Department of Justice published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit public input on the Commission’s proposed national standards and to receive information useful to the Department of Justice in publishing a final rule adopting national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape, as  mandated by PREA. In February 2011 DOJ released the draft standards.  From February – April 2011 DOJ solicit public comments on their draft standards.  On May 17, 2012 the DOJ final standards was released.  On June 20, 2012 the Final DOJ standards were published in the Federal Registry.  On August 20, 2012, the final standards became applicable to State and Local facilities however DOJ was still seeking public comments on standards regarding staffing ratios, etc…The Attorney General Workgroup convened through 2012.

Within the context of PREA, prison is defined as "any federal, state, or local confinement facility, including local jails, police lockups, juvenile facilities, and state and federal prisons."

The San Diego County Probation Department has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment within all probation facilities.  Residents of probation facilities, individuals under probation supervision, probation staff, volunteers and collaborative partners have a right to an environment that is free from sexual abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The department fully investigates and immediately addresses all allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment to include criminal and administrative sanctions as appropriate.  Probation and collaborative staff working in any San Diego County Probation facility is required to immediately report any instance of suspected or observed sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual harassment verbally to the facility’s Watch Commander, the department Ombudsman/PREA Coordinator, or administrator and must document the matter in writing within 24- hours.   Probation staff are required to immediately intervene when they suspect or observe sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual harassment.

No probation staff member, individual subject to probation supervision, facility resident, volunteer, or collaborative partner will be subject to retaliation for acting in good faith to intervene in, report or document any incident of sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual harassment.