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Va. prison first to reach milestone in rape elimination compliance

6/11/2014, 2:53 p.m.
Deerfield Correctional Center is a 1,080-bed male facility whose PREA audit was conducted March 5-7, 2014. Since then, Lunenburg Correctional ...
Prison rape is often depicted in films and on TV but is no entertainment in real life.

The Virginia Department of Corrections is touting that it is the first state corrections department in the country to obtain full compliance of an adult prison facility under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards for adult prisons and jails. Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron, southeast Virginia, was certified in April to be 100 percent PREA compliant, and since April five additional facilities have been certified.

Deerfield Correctional Center is a 1,080-bed male facility whose PREA audit was conducted March 5-7, 2014. Since then, Lunenburg Correctional Center, Nottoway Correctional Center, Deep Meadow Correctional Center, Rustburg Correctional Unit #9, and Caroline Correctional Unit #2 have all been certified to be 100 percent PREA compliant

“Deerfield Warden James Beale and his staff are to be commended for this tremendous accomplishment,” said Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) Director Harold Clarke. “As a department, we place a high priority on compliance with this important legislation designed to protect offenders.

“We were the first state correctional system in the country to begin audits, and we now have six compliant adult state facilities.”

The U.S. Congress unanimously passed PREA and then President George W. Bush signed into law on Sept. 4, 2003. On June 20, 2012, the PREA national standards were published in the Federal Register and became binding on state confinement facilities 60 days later.

PREA is designed to ensure correctional facilities establish policies and practices to protect those who are incarcerated from sexual violence by staff and other offenders. It also offers the nation’s governors and local officials to protect children from the dangers of adult jails and prisons.

PREA regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) include the Youthful Inmate Standard, which bans the housing of youth in the general adult population, prohibits contact between youth and adults in common areas, and ensures youth are constantly supervised by staff. At the same time, the regulations require limitations on the use of isolation in complying with the standard.

The bipartisan architects of the PREA law — Representatives Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) — believe that youth should be fully protected from sexual abuse as was intended by Congress when it passed PREA and that a critical component of this protection is the removal of all under 18 youth from adult jails and prisons.

“The Department of Corrections’ commitment to addressing and preventing sexual victimization in state correctional facilities is laudable,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The department has our full support as they continue the hard work to ensure all state correctional facilities are certified 100 percent PREA compliant.”

PREA mandates apply to all institutions, as well as community residential facilities, and hold all staff, contractors and volunteers responsible for the detection, prevention and reporting of known and suspected occurrences of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct.

The PREA standards increase visibility of the aforementioned issues and increase accountability for government facilities, private facilities and every individual who works in corrections. According to the DOJ, the average estimated annualized cost of compliance for a prison is $55,000, $50,000 per jail, $16,000 per lockup, $24,000 per community confinement facility, and $54,000 per juvenile facility.