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DOJ Releases Final PREA Standards

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a final rule to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in prison facilities, in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). The rule marks the government’s first ever effort to set standards to protect inmates in facilities at the federal, state and local levels.

We submitted comments to the DOJ last year on its proposed form of the rule, and several of our key recommendations were considered by the agency, as reflected in the updated regulatory impact assessment released by the DOJ in conjunction with the final rule. Overall, the rule is more stringent than the proposed standards as the scope of some requirements has been broadened, additional protections added, and a number of requirements tightened and expanded.

Significantly, the DOJ took note of our concern that its initial calculations of compliance costs were likely overestimates, since they did not account for any potential “learning effects” in which facilities adapt and technologies develop to lower the costs of adhering to the standards. Despite asserting that not enough data exists for learning effects to be assessed comprehensively, the DOJ nonetheless proceeded to incorporate a “learning curve” into its cost assessments for several discrete standards.

The agency’s analysis of alternative options is also more thorough this time around. For instance, costs of options are disaggregated by standard, as we had recommended in our comments.

Though there are still areas where cost-benefit analysis could be tightened, the rule’s final form is an important step in combating sexual abuse in America’s prison facilities.