“No matter what crime someone may have committed, rape is not part of the penalty.” —Just Detention International
What is PREA?
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress. The purpose of the act was to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” (Prison Rape Elimination Act, 2003). In addition to creating a mandate for significant research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and through the National Institute of Justice, funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Corrections supported major efforts in many state correctional, juvenile detention, community corrections, and jail systems. (PREA Resource Center)
PREA was written and created from a need to offer incarcerated people the same services as people who aren’t incarcerated. Sexual assault and rape in prison facilities nationwide are at epidemic levels. The goal is simple: end prison rape and sexual assault with zero tolerance for perpetrators and enhance services to survivors. Finding ways to increase access to crisis service providers, ensuring that there is an effective response system in place, and establishing best practices for those responses are the nuts and bolts of PREA.
Being incarcerated adds a number of barriers to receiving services. For example, not having access to phones, to email, to the internet, to letter writing materials, and so on means that channels available to people on the outside need special tailoring to be able to be delivered to people in state facilities.
At the same time, there is a higher concentration of identities that are targeted for sexual assault in prison and jail, so there is an increased need to provide services with very reduced avenues to deliver them through.
The act also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and charged it with developing draft standards for the elimination of prison rape. Those standards were published in June 2009, and were turned over to the Department of Justice for review and passage as a final rule. That final rule became effective August 20, 2012. (PREA Resource Center) The final rule requires detention facilities to offer services from third party, community based organizations to survivors.
What does PREA look like in New York?
NYSCASA has a broad reach as a statewide coalition, and one of the areas that NYSCASA has taken a step forward in is implementing PREA standards.
In New York, there are six Rape Crisis Centers who have signed on to deliver services to inmates who have experienced sexual assault. Each Rape Crisis Center has multiple facilities that they take calls from and perform a variety of follow up services. NYSCASA enters the picture here by reimbursing the crisis centers for their PREA services, helping train and educate staff on what PREA is, and offering technical assistance to ensure advocates can deliver their expertise.
NYSCASA is also entering into the national PREA conversation through our collaborative work with the PREA Resource Center, Just Detention International, and the Resource Sharing Project. Collaborating with other state coalitions and strategizing with experts from across the nation fits in perfectly with the spirit of NYSCASA’s involvement. Sharing experience, making connections, increasing communication, and furthering our understandings of policies and people’s lived realities are all part of what makes the PREA projects come to life. Having a national communication network also gives NY great examples on which to base our own creations by seeing what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere.
Another vital aspect of PREA work is bringing light to the nuanced taboos that are prevalent to the project. Delivering services to incarcerated people brings up some widely held presumptions about who does or does not deserve care. It is our stance that sexual assault is never acceptable for anyone, regardless of the reasoning or history of those involved.
PREA also specifically identifies and addresses several marginalized populations by having space and discussion in trainings about LGBQ people, trans people, people of color, people with disabilities, women, and minors. Each of these identities is at an increased risk for sexual assault in general, which becomes even more potent in prisons and jails. Ensuring that everyone is safe while they are incarcerated includes taking special measures for populations that have historically been discriminated against.
For more information about our PREA work, contact PREA Outreach Director Eirik Bjorkman at (518) 482-4222 ext. 306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- PREA Resource Center
- Resource Sharing Project
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Impact Justice
- Just Detention International
- The Project on Addressing Prison Rape
- The Vera Institute of Justice
- The Moss Group
- US Bureau of Justice Assistance
- New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services
- New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision