- The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is a federal law, Public Law 108-79, signed into law in September 2003 by the President of the United States and now designated as 42 USC 15601.
- PREA establishes a zero-tolerance standard against sexual abuse of incarcerated persons of any age. This makes the prevention of sexual abuse in TJJD facilities a top priority.
- PREA sets a standard that protects the Eighth Amendment rights (Constitutional right prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment) of federal, state and local youth offenders.
- It increases the collection of nationwide data on sexual misconduct and sexual assault on confined persons.
- It increases accountability for administrators who fail to prevent, reduce, and punish sexual misconduct and sexual assaults.
PREA is the first United States Federal Law passed dealing with sexual abuse of incarcerated persons. The bill was signed into law on September 4, 2003 and the standards were published in the Federal Register on June 20, 2012 and became effective on August 20, 2012. PREA covers all adult as well as juvenile detention facilities. The definition of “prison” for the purposes of this act includes, "any juvenile facility used for the custody or care of juvenile inmates."
PREA defines "prison" quite broadly. Within the context of PREA, prison is defined as “any federal, state, or local confinement facility, including local jails, police lockups, juvenile facilities, and state and federal prisons”. Thus short-term lockups, such as holding facilities and local jails, regardless of size, are also subject to the provisions of PREA.
A copy of the federal PREA law, Public Law 108-79, codified as 42 USC 15601 can be found on the following website: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ79/pdf/PLAW-108publ79.pdf
A copy of the Federal Register, June 20, 2012, Vol. 77, "Final Rule of the PREA Standards, 28 CFR Part 115" can be found on the following website: https://www.prearesourcecenter.org/
Texas has a specific criminal law for employees and or agents who sexually abuse confined persons as related to prosecution of PREA-related incidents. The links to these penal codes are as follows:
Texas Penal Code, Title 8. Offenses Against Public Administration, Ch. 39. Abuse of Office:
Texas Penal Code, Title 5. Offenses Against The Person, Ch. 21. Sexual Offenses:
Texas Penal Code, Title 5. Offenses Against The Person, Ch. 22 Assaultive Offenses:
- PREA addresses the detection, response, prevention and elimination of sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment in all TJJD facilities throughout Texas.
- PREA directs the collection and dissemination of information on the incidence of youth-on-youth sexual violence as well as staff sexual misconduct with youth in TJJD.
PREA applies to all federal, state, local public and private institutions that houses juveniles and adult offenders, male and female.
What is the evidence of TJJD’s commitment to maintaining a safe, humane, and appropriately secure environment for youth offenders?
TJJD has policy and standards for employees, volunteers and contractors that prohibit them from becoming inappropriately personally involved with youthful offenders in our care. All staff, volunteers and contractors are provided training on professional ethics and in maintaining professional boundaries when interacting with the youth. Employee disciplinary action, termination of volunteer and contractual services, and referral to the Special Prosecution Unit (SPU) for alleged criminal misconduct is initiated when appropriate. The investigative staff of the TJJD Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the TJJD Administrative Investigations Department has received and will continue to receive specialized training in conducting investigations into sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. Furthermore, when sufficient evidence exists regarding alleged misconduct of an employee, volunteer or contractor, TJJD does not hesitate to remove that employee, that volunteer or contractor. The agency also supports criminal prosecution of that employee, volunteer or contractor. These are just some of the ways TJJD is committed to maintaining a safe, humane, and appropriate secure environment for youthful offenders committed to our care.
PREA addresses the sexual safety of all youths in TJJD’s custody including our zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Zero tolerance means that TJJD does not tolerate any form of sexual assault, sexual abuse or sexual harassment and affirms that there is no such thing as consensual sex between a staff and a youth or between a youth and youth. Employees who violate this zero-tolerance policy will be subject to disciplinary actions including termination, investigated by the OIG and referred for criminal prosecution to the SPU when appropriate.
Sexual misconduct is not about sex. It is about safety and security. Both are compromised wherever boundaries break down and a staff member becomes personally or intimately involved with a youth.
Staff Sexual Misconduct undermines the mission of TJJD by creating an unstable living and working environment for the youth as well as supervising staff members. Staff sexual misconduct with a youth affects the correctional facility by:
- Jeopardizing staff safety
- Threatening the agency and facility safety and security
- Creating the risk of legal action--both criminal and civil
- Creating health risks
- Harming family relationships
- Creating negative public views of TJJD
- Diminishing trust and morale of staff and youth
- Weakening respect for, and the authority of, Juvenile Corrections Officer staff among the youth
What about youth who either manipulate the system using PREA or make false allegations against staff?
Staff are often concerned that addressing PREA-related issues in policy and procedure, and educating youth as to their right to be safe while in custody, may result in false accusations or false reports of staff misconduct. Experience has shown that there may be an initial spike in reporting, or reports that “test” the facility’s system and policy. However, incidence of false reporting usually subsides when both staff and youth realize that there will be a thorough and timely investigation of all incidences of alleged false reporting.
Questions regarding PREA may be referred to:
Jerome K. Williams, Director I
PREA Compliance Administrator