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As Prisons Prepare for PREA, Impact on Youthful Inmates May Be Major, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) — a federal legislative proposal that sought to curb incidents of sexual assault in both adult prisons and juvenile detention facilities — was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The newly formed National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) was then tasked with establishing PREA standards; ultimately, nine years would pass before the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the final standards set forth by the NPREC.
Regarding juvenile offenders, PREA Standard 115.14, also known as the “Youthful Inmate Standard,” is perhaps the most significant aspect of the federal legislation. Under PREA, adult facilities holding inmates under the age of 18 are required to implement policies that guarantee the segregation of minors from older prisoners — a practice commonly referred to as “sight and sound separation.” Among other provisions, PREA prevents facilities from placing minors in cells with adult inmates, calls for constant supervision of juveniles in adult correctional facilities and limits the use of isolation as a penalty for young inmates.
‘Smart on Crime’ Calls for Leniency for Youth Offenders, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
In a bid to decongest the nation’s overpopulated prisons, the Obama administration has proposed leniency for certain drug cases, a move with uncertain consequences for juvenile inmates.
The president’s new Smart on Crime initiative has received national attention since Attorney General Eric H. Holder announced the policy at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday.
The initiative – highlighted by an easing of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for low-level drug cases – could help reduce the booming prison population. But it’s unclear what impact that will have on the country’s juvenile incarceration rate, the highest of any industrialized nation.
“This is all great language, but in terms of what reforms (Holder’s) proposing and how they will reduce juvenile incarceration – it’s an open question,” said Antonio Ginatta, Human Rights Watch advocacy director of the U.S. Program . “The real action needs to occur in state legislatures and in Congress.”
“Long story short, he identifies the right issues, but I don’t know if he has all the tools necessary to make the changes.”