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Cole said that PREA is a signal of the “unequivocal rejection of the outdated — and morally unconscionable — acceptance of rape,” as part of a prisoner’s sentence, and he highlighted the particular danger to juveniles.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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