Most States ‘Intend’ to Comply with Prison Rape Elimination Act, DOJ Says

Department of Justice, Washington D.C.
Department of Justice, Washington D.C.

Some 85 percent of U.S. states and territories told the federal Department of Justice that “they intend to take steps to reduce sexual assaults in prisons” by coming into compliance with the 2003 federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday. This is the first year that states and territories are subject to the withholding of federal grants if they do not demonstrate an intention to comply with the law.

A total of 56 jurisdictions are subject to the federal law, including all states, five federal territories and the District of Columbia, according to Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary speaking at a news conference Wednesday. A DOJ news release reports that 48 of those jurisdictions indicate they are “in compliance or have submitted assurances to the [DOJ] committing to spending 5 percent of certain federal grant funds to come into compliance.”

Only two jurisdictions, New Hampshire and New Jersey, have certified full compliance, and 46 “provided assurances” that they would use funding to come into compliance. Of the eight jurisdictions that have not indicated a willingness to comply, Cole said they “will be held accountable, as we are required to do by law.” According to Leary the jurisdictions that did not submit a certificate of assurance will still receive assistance, but will “incur the 5 percent reduction this year.” The governors of Idaho, Texa, Indiana, Utah and Arizona “won’t try to meet the standards,” ABC News reports.

Cole said that PREA is a signal of the “unequivocal rejection of the outdated — and morally unconscionable — acceptance of rape,” as part of a prisoner’s sentence, and he highlighted the particular danger to juveniles. Some 9.5 percent of adjudicated children in custody reported sexual victimization in the last year.

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John Lash

John Lash is the executive director of Georgia Conflict Center in Athens, Ga., where he works to increase the use of restorative justice approaches in the juvenile court, schools, and the community, and teaches conflict management skills in various settings. He is a graduate of the Master in Conflict Management program at Kennesaw State University. He is a regular op-ed contributor to JJIE, where he also assists in website management and content curation.

One thought on “Most States ‘Intend’ to Comply with Prison Rape Elimination Act, DOJ Says”

  1. I hope you will do an in depth follow up story that investigates what states are actually saying to DOJ that goes beyond their ‘spin’ that most states intend to comply. They are not being up front with the media or the public about how badly they’ve handled PREA implementation. The DOJ needs to be transparent about what is actually happening and not cave to the prison industry or the states. Much much more needs to be done to push back on the states that don’t want to comply, and that needs to start with AG Holder.

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