The U.S. Justice Department yesterday issued a long-awaited proposal to prevent and respond to sexual abuse in prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, lockups, and community confinement units under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Based on recommendations of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, the proposed rule contains four sets of national standards.
The Justice Department reviewed more than 650 comments on the issue. The proposed standards would require correctional agencies to ban cross-gender strip searches, and for juveniles, cross-gender pat-down searches; check the backgrounds of new hires and not hire past abusers; establish an evidence protocol to preserve evidence after an incident and train investigators to act promptly and diligently; screen inmates through a process that takes into account their safety and assign them to housing in a way that best protects them, among other items. Once published, the standards will be binding on the federal Bureau of Prisons. States that do not comply with the standards are subject to a five percent reduction in federal funds they would otherwise receive for prisons unless the governor certifies that five percent of such funds will be used to enable compliance in future years.