Did you Know that PREA Compliance Now Comes with an Easy Button?
By Robert Stallworth, American Military University
Recently, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) released new instruments, unlike a flute or saxophone, to play in the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) band. Although it doesn’t play actual music, the new tools could be music to some people’s ears as their department strives for compliance.
These PREA standards are “designed to enhance safety within facilities where people are detained for any amount of time, even if an agency only has one cell.” Personally, I’m not familiar with agencies or departments that only have one cell, but I’m sure such agencies exist. I guess that would be like an agency not hearing about or knowing it had to comply with PREA.
What are the New PREA-Compliance Tools?
The new DOJ tools are designed to help agencies meet the PREA standards through an audit. Yes, the dreaded “A” word. However, what’s different about this type of audit is that the federal government is not coming to breathe down your neck. Instead, agencies can hire independent auditors who are highly trained and qualified to come to the facility to assist with compliance. The DOJ reports that they have nearly 300 individuals trained and certified to conduct such facility audits.
The DOJ’s audit tools for lockups include:
- A pre-audit questionnaire
- Auditor compliance tool
- Instructions for an audit tour
- Interview protocols
- Auditor summary report
- Process map
- Checklist of documentation
These new tools are most appropriate for some police departments, small jails, juvenile detention centers, halfway houses or any other agencies that can hold detainees in lock-up for a short period of time. It is important for these agencies to know that they must comply with PREA standards. After all, no agency or department wants to be “found liable if a court were to determine that non-compliance with a national standard—even though voluntary—was evidence of negligence.” In other words, no matter how small an agency, it can still be sued for not complying with PREA. So these new auditing services are a great tool to help smaller agencies comply the PREA national standards.
For more information on the audit instruments, compliance tools for lockups and PREA in general, check out the National PREA Resource Center (PRC) website or in the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) brochure, Enhancing Safety and Reducing Liability in Police Lockups and Holding Cells.
About the Author: Rob Stallworth is a former Deputy Chief Probation and Parole Officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections. His career spans more than 15 years with the department where he has served in various positions such as Gang Specialist and Academy Adjunct Instructor. Rob is currently a member of American Military University’s Public Safety Outreach Team.