The Prison Rape Elimination Act was signed into law by President Bush on Sept. 4, 2003. PREA was enacted to address the detection, prevention, reduction and prosecution of sexual abuse or sexual harassment in all correctional facilities in the nation.
Federal requirements Since the new regulations were published by the U.S. attorney general in August 2012, all states are required to take a number of actions to prevent, detect, reduce and respond to sexual abuse or sexual harassment in confinement facilities. Among these are:
- establishment of a zero-tolerance standard for sexual abuse or sexual harassment
- collection and reporting data on prison sexual violence
- training and education of correctional staff, contractors and volunteers about the nature of prison sexual violence, and how to prevent, detect and respond to incidents of sexual abuse or sexual harassment
- thorough and appropriate risk assessment and screening of offenders to keep apart potential aggressors and potential victims
- disciplining and prosecution of corrections staff who perpetrate sexual abuse or sexual harassment against an inmate
- holding corrections administrators accountable for the occurrence of prison sexual violence in their facilities
Implementation of PREA in Montana
The Department of Corrections has implemented a zero-tolerance policy relating to sexual abuse or sexual harassment in custody, and recognizes offenders who are sexually harassed or abused as victims of a serious crime. The department:
- immediately responds to allegations
- fully investigates all reported incidents
- pursues disciplinary action
- refers those who perpetrate such conduct for investigation and prosecution
PREA coordinator – While all employees are responsible for ensuring compliance with PREA, the agency has a full time employee dedicated to the program: the PREA coordinator. The coordinator is responsible for monitoring compliance with federal law, and for ensuring that all confinement facilities in the state also comply with department sexual abuse or sexual harassment policies and procedures. In November 2014, the department’s PREA coordinator Andy Jess became the state’s first certified PREA auditor for both adult and youth facilities.
Education – The department requires every offender and every employee to attend regular training on prison sexual dynamics, and on ways to detect, prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and inappropriate relationships between staff and offenders.
Reporting suspected sexual abuse or sexual harassment
Anyone who suspects or has knowledge of any sexual harassment, sexual abuse or sexual misconduct in any juvenile or adult correctional facility should report it to a staff member, volunteer, supervisor, administrator, human resources official or the PREA unit.
Inmates may file grievances, tell their case manager or unit manager, or talk with a correctional officer or any staff member with whom they feel comfortable and trust. Anyone who receives a report of sexual abuse or sexual harassment in any confinement setting must send it up the chain of command for investigation and disposition.
Penalty for not reporting – Disciplinary action, including termination, may face a department employee or volunteer who fails to report an allegation of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, or coerces or threatens another person to submit inaccurate, incomplete, or untruthful information with the intent to alter a report. The department takes very seriously its PREA responsibilities in order to ensure public safety, secure correctional facilities and a safe environment for all offenders.
Questions about PREA should be directed to Andy Jess at (406) 444-6583
5 S. Last Chance Gulch
PO Box 201301
Helena, MT 59620- 1301