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Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary Speaks at Press Conference Updating States’ Efforts to Comply with Prison Rape Elimination Act


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Deputy Attorney General Cole, and thanks to all of you for joining us today.

I want to echo the Deputy Attorney General’s words of appreciation to the governors for their responses to the compliance deadline.  Almost all states and territories provided certifications or assurances, and that shows they are giving the issue of sexual abuse in confinement facilities the serious attention it deserves.

What we heard from the governors is that they are taking positive steps to address the issue of prison rape.  They described the rigorous PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) audit preparation work underway in their states and territories, identified confinement facilities that are passing PREA audits, and highlighted agencies and facilities that are identifying strategic, creative steps to come into compliance with the National PREA Standards.   

It’s also important to note that the department heard from governors about the challenges associated with their states’ and territories’ PREA-related efforts.  They explained that  coming into full compliance with the National PREA Standards will not be quick or easy in many jurisdictions, but that they are working in good faith to do so.  We are very encouraged by the level of their commitment to the goal of preventing and eliminating sexual assault in confinement settings.   

I want to reiterate that we will continue to work closely with them to make sure they have the tools they need to come into full compliance – and to remain in compliance.  In addition to funding, training and technical assistance, we’ve dedicated resources to supporting the PREA auditing process.  The PREA Standards establish a three-year audit cycle, and to be fully compliant, each confinement facility covered by the PREA Standards must be audited by a DOJ-Certified PREA Auditor at least once every three years.

The department has developed and implemented an auditor certification process that includes a very comprehensive 40-hour PREA Auditor Training Curriculum.  There are currently 259 department-certified PREA Auditors.  Their names and contact information are posted on the PREA Resource Center website, so that agencies and facilities across the country that are pursuing compliance with the National PREA Standards can reach out to them for assistance.  The department expects to train and certify several hundred more auditors in 2014, bringing the total number of department-certified PREA Auditors to more than 600 by the end of this calendar year.

It’s also worth mentioning that for the eight states and territories that did not submit a certification or assurance, the opportunity for coming into compliance has not passed.  They will incur the five percent reduction in funding this year, but we will continue to offer our assistance in the hope that they will work toward compliance in the near future.

We are committed to working with all states and territories to help them come into compliance.  As the Deputy Attorney General articulated, our goal is to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse in our nation’s confinement facilities and end the culture of violence that has, for too long, been associated with our corrections system.

We are very encouraged by the responses of the states and territories, and are heartened by the sea change in attitude we have seen in recent years, symbolized and spurred by PREA.  It’s clear that our nation will no longer tolerate sexual violence in our prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers – and that’s something we should all be proud of.

We’ll now be happy to take any questions.

Updated September 17, 2014