The Prison Rape Elimination Act - Is Your Agency In Compliance?
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is among the scariest series of words for anyone in Corrections. There are over 455 individual standards, which are required to be met to achieve "meeting standards." "Why do I care?" is often one of the questions that are asked! The answer to this question is civil liability and funding. Correctional facilities need to adopt the standard of care used at other facilities, or they may result in being held liable for damages. PREA was signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush to develop a safer experience for people in custody. The bill was bi-partisan, which enjoyed significant support and continues the prison reform process. You should understand why it is essential to you, your agency, and the people you are responsible for when they are in your custody.
Where Can I Go?
There is the PREA resource center which can provide you with the standards of care for your organization to be in compliance. This website provides you with answers to questions you might not have thought about previously. In addition, it also allows you to explore concepts and concerns you might have that other agencies have already asked. It is always important to not reinvent the wheel, but instead if you can use what others have developed (with their permission) and modify it to what you need for your organization.
Meet with other sheriff's departments, and probation services to see if you can develop working groups in your area to address concerns you might have. This allows a cohesive plan that can be reviewed by your city or county attorney, which will reduce your liability and risk for the organization. If you have not already reached out to your regional partners to explore an ongoing review of their work product, we at 21 CLETS, LLC, encourage you to develop this regional approach. Combine this with attending our PREA Class, where we will provide you with solutions to the needs specific to your correctional facilities.
Development Of Solutions
When looking at all of the standards, several issues will need to be addressed. An example of this is the ability to reach members of your community who do not speak English. One of the first steps you can embark upon is a review of the inmates to find the top five non-English languages spoken and written. This will help you prepare educational material to meet the needs of people housed in your facility. In San Mateo County, a review of inmates found an obligation to provide information in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Russian.
It is essential at this point to find people in your communities who are fluent in both the written and spoken word to review what you feel is vital on PREA posters or information. One important note: do not use Google translate without verifying the data with a native language speaker, as we found that not all translations were accurate. Also, make sure you have an additional native speaker review the work that was produced to make sure it is 100% correct.
These steps will assist you in developing accurate information. Also, they will help you to educate the people you are responsible for about information that is important to them and their families.
To meet standards, a pre-audit questionnaire should be completed by the PREA person responsible for your agency. This means using online resources available to you for further exploration into issues or concerns you might have. Once you find areas of interest, you can develop solutions needed by establishing a series of timelines.
The timelines should look at all standards, but be broken up into achievable goals for each. This will help you stay on track, achieve results, and discover other areas of concern for yourself. We have found the easiest solutions or "low hanging fruit" can be bundled together to allow for quicker results.
Get Trained Today
21 CLETS, LLC has developed a class which will give you relevant insight into how to meet PREA standards, and you will be provided with resources to help you meet them. This eight-hour class will be challenging, but will give you the skills necessary to meet all guidelines. The course content will provide an opportunity to hear from a staff member who was responsible for ensuring compliance with a first-ever PREA audit. Additional discussions will be facilitated concerning solutions discovered to meet frequent compliance issues. Often, there will be a need to think "outside of the box" to find out what works for your correctional facility, and we welcome and encourage information-sharing to help all achieve this goal.