Governors Submit Assurances for PREA Compliance
Texas, Alaska, and Idaho have made assurances for the first time; Arkansas and Utah Continue to opt out of PREA
By Marcy Mistrett
Last week, the US Department of Justice released the re-certification and re-assurance submissions for Year Two of the audit for compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
PREA, a bipartisan supported act passed more than a decade ago, was designed to end sexual violence behind bars. For youth (under age 18) who are charged and/or sentenced as adults, PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard (115.14) offers unique protections—requiring separate housing (including common rooms and showers) from adult inmates in jails and prisons. PREA requires sight and sound separation between youth and adults outside of housing, unless the facility provides direct staff supervision when the two populations interact; that facilities must make their “best efforts” not to rely on isolation as way to meet these requirements; and finally, that facilities must offer youth large muscle exercise, comply with legally required special education services, and provide access to other programming as much as possible.
States have three years to audit their facilities and provide assurances that they are coming into compliance with PREA. This is the second cycle of audits that cover (Aug 2014-Aug 2015), and states that do not certify will be subjected to a penalty in DOJ grant awards (FY 2016).
According to the audit, states are continuing to move toward compliance; with 12 states certifying full compliance this year—including new certifications from Arizona, Kentucky, Vermont, and Virginia.
The vast majority of states (36 states and four US territories) are providing assurances that they are making efforts to move toward compliance. Disappointingly, three states that were in full compliance last year (Iowa, Massachusetts, and Mississippi) have fallen out of compliance and are now working on getting back into compliance. But Texas, Alaska, and Idaho have made assurances for the first time this audit.
Arkansas and Utah are the only two states that continue to opt out of PREA entirely. This is incredibly sad for children, since Arkansas has had a significant history of sexual assault and abuse in their juvenile facilities.
Governors will have to submit assurances again in October, 2016 providing audit information for Year Three. Since PREA is becoming the field’s recommended standard of care, we hope that governors will take note and move toward compliance quickly. The safety of our children depends on it.
Please check out our most recent report Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard. This report explores how states house youth under 18 in prisons in the new age of PREA compliance and enforcement. Furthermore, this report highlights national trends in juvenile arrests, crimes, and incarceration of children in the adult system.