Most Governors Reject Rick Perry’s Call to Abandon PREA
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Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., May 20, 2014 -- Texas Governor Rick Perry has almost certainly failed in his effort, announced in March of this year, to foster a nationwide rejection of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Just days after Attorney General Eric Holder’s May 15 deadline, JDI is confident that the vast majority of governors have, as required by the law, certified full implementation of the PREA standards or offered an assurance that implementation is ongoing. While the Department of Justice has yet to publish a list of states’ submissions, JDI knows that governors from across the political spectrum – including those from California, Oklahoma, and South Carolina – affirmed their commitment to implementing the PREA standards in assurances submitted on May 15.
"The widespread support among states for the PREA standards shows clearly that Governor Perry is out of step with the rest of the country. The standards have the potential to reduce dramatically sexual abuse behind bars, and governors are showing true leadership by rejecting Perry's cynical campaign," said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International.
In a letter to the Department of Justice explaining his decision, Governor Perry argued that Texas could prevent sexual abuse behind bars without adopting the standards. His claim is belied by the fact that the Bureau of Justice Statistics consistently has found that Texas prisons rank among the country’s worst. Additionally, hundreds of Texas inmates write to JDI every year, describing horrific sexual violence committed by staff and other inmates alike.
JDI believes that most states, like California, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, have submitted an assurance of ongoing implementation in lieu of certifying full compliance with the standards. Under PREA, a state can issue an assurance provided that it commits to spending an amount equal to at least five percent of its federal prison funding on implementation efforts over the next year.
"At this stage, giving an assurance is a sensible approach for states that are working toward compliance. We want actual certifications to be meaningful, so states should certify only when they know that they are in full compliance," said Stannow. "Until then, the Department of Justice must strictly monitor states to ensure that they are using their federal funds appropriately. No state should be meeting its five percent financial commitment by diverting funds away from essential inmate services like rape crisis counseling – doing so would run counter to the intent of PREA."
Under PREA, the Department of Justice must publish a list of states’ compliance with the reporting deadline by September 30, 2014. However, Department officials expect to release a list prior to that date.