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Corrections Agencies Scrambling to Comply with New Prison Rape Legislation Standards

By Rob Stallworth

For many of us who work in the criminal justice system, prison rape is a reality. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just happen with one inmate on another, but sometimes between staff members and inmates. As a result of this shocking reality, the federal government has stepped up to legislate and weigh in on the subject.

In 2012, the Obama administration ordered federal, state, and local officials to adopt zero tolerance for prison rape. Mandatory screening, enforcement and prevention regulations were issued, which were designed to reduce the number of inmates who suffer sexual victimization at the hands of other prisoners and prison staff.

Prison picThese standards have been under development since Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). The final rule was published on June 20, 2012, and became effective on August 20, 2012.

Complying with the Standards

Most corrections departments around the country have been scrambling for the past year to get personnel trained to enforce these new federal standards, inside prisons and in community corrections as well.

The first audit cycle began on August 20, 2013. According to the PREA Resource Center, to be in compliance, jurisdictions must have at least one-third of their facilities by August 20, 2014.

PREA auditors have been hired to ensure the standards are being met because there is also money tied to these standards. Community service agencies can receive money to help those in need of counseling after having been through such a traumatic experience. The Department of Justice provides funding to agencies to “establish programs that help all survivors of sexual abuse, including those who are incarcerated.”

It will also allow some agencies to create positions and reach some of the most chronically underserved people. “Sexual violence is never the fault of the victim or deserved by the victim, no matter what the person’s criminal history … it has the same devastating impact on anybody who experiences it, according to Jill Gruenberg, program coordinator for RESPONSE, a non-profit organization providing assistance for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In my travels throughout the past year, I have heard representatives from some departments discuss the PREA standards and what it will mean to their departments. Some are even debating whether or not to enforce the new standards.  I’m not sure that wavering on whether or not to enact these PREA standards is a wise battle to choose.

Corrections professionals who are confused, need some help, or just need some more training about these PREA standards, should check out information provided by the National PREA Resource Center. This organization has a wealth of resources about the standards and compliance. While these new standards may seem overwhelming, it’s worth undertaking so that every agency can contribute to the fight against prison rape.

About the Author: Rob Stallworth is a Deputy Chief Probation and Parole Officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections in the Manassas, Virginia Field Office. His career spans more than 15 years with the department where he has served in various positions such as Gang Specialist and Academy Adjunct Instructor. Rob is a member of American Military University’s Public Safety Outreach Team

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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