Home News Center New Regulations Move to Protect Incarcerated Youth from Sexual Abuse

New Regulations Move to Protect Incarcerated Youth from Sexual Abuse

May 30, 2012
Omote Ekwotafia

On May 17, the U.S. Department of Justice released the final rules of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). The standards are intended to help prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse, and they apply to juvenile as well as adult facilities. The regulations are immediately binding on the Federal Bureau of Prisons; states will have one year to come into compliance with most standards.

In April of this year, over 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged Attorney General Eric Holder to include a final rule that would prohibit any confinement of youth in adult jails and prisons. While the final rules did not include such a prohibition, adult facilities are required to “prevent juveniles from being housed with adult inmates or having unsupervised contact with adult inmates in common spaces,” a requirement not included in the draft PREA rules.

Specifically the new regulations for adult facilities require that: 

  1. no inmate under 18 may be placed in a housing unit where contact will occur with adult inmates in a common space, shower area, or sleeping quarters; 
  2. agencies must either maintain “sight and sound separation”—i.e., preventing adult inmates from seeing or communicating with youth—when youth are outside of housing units, or provide direct staff supervision when the two are together;
  3. agencies must make their best effort to avoid placing youth in isolation to comply with this provision; and,
  4. absent exigent circumstances, agencies must provide youth with exercise and education. 

Facilities will be audited every three years to assess compliance with PREA. States that do not comply will be subject to a five percent decrease in funds that they would normally use for prison purposes. Additionally, in order for any organization responsible for accrediting correctional facilities to receive federal grants, it must adopt the PREA standards.

NOTE: The Department of Justice is requesting comment on staffing ratios in secure juvenile facilities

Read the Presidential Memorandum—Implementing PREA »

NCCD's National PREA Resource Center »

The Campaign for Youth Justice's Recommendations on Next Steps to Implementation »

Why PREA Matters: CCLP Fact Sheet on Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities »


Photo: DonkeyHotey, under Creative Commons License. 

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