The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was a bipartisan commission created by Congress as part of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), 42 U.S.C. § 15601, et seq. The Commission was charged with studying federal, state and local government policies and practices related to the prevention, detection, response and monitoring of sexual abuse in correction and detention facilities in the United States.
Upon its creation, the Commission undertook a comprehensive legal and factual study of the impact of prison sexual assaults on federal, state and local government functions and on the communities and social institutions in which they operate. As mandated by the statute, standards were developed to regulate training, prisoner classification and assignment, investigation and resolution of complaints, preservation of evidence, medical and mental health care for victims, investigation of staff misconduct, the creation of an incident reporting system, data collection and other matters.
The Commission worked through a broad and transparent process to research and evaluate best practices and to draft standards with the help of leading experts and diverse organizations in the criminal justice community. To inform standards development, the Commission held eight public hearings across the country focused on topics including investigation and reporting of assaults, vulnerable populations, medical and mental health treatment, the special concerns of lockup facilities, and juvenile and immigration populations. Beginning in 2007, expert committees were convened to address each of the subject areas mandated by the statute, with separate committees for juvenile standards and immigration detention standards. Committee members included leaders in corrections, former prisoners and their advocates, scholars, law enforcement representatives, and others committed to the goals of PREA.
During the summer of 2008, the Commission released its draft standards for adult prisons and jails, facilities holding immigration detainees, lockups, and juvenile and community corrections facilities for a sixty-day public comment period. The Commission reviewed feedback from the more than 225 organizations and individuals who submitted public comments and, in response, made significant substantive changes to the content and format of the standards.
On June 23, 2009, the Commission reported its findings and proposed Standards to the President, Congress, the United States Attorney General, Secretary of Health and Human Services and other federal and state officials. Within one year of receiving the Commission’s final report, the Attorney General is required to publish a final rule adopting national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape. The standards issued by the Attorney General will apply to the federal Bureau of Prisons immediately upon issuance. States will receive notification of the new standards from the Attorney General and will then have one year to adopt and comply with them or risk losing five percent of any federal grant funds provided for prison purposes.
The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission sunset August 22, 2009.