On May 15, 2014, the State of Arizona joined six other states and one territory in a dubious group that has missed the deadline for compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a federal statutory scheme that set “national standards for the detection, reduction and punishment of prison rape,” signed into law in 2003. Arizona joins Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas, and Utah, and the Northern Mariana Islands in its PREA compliance failure.
Arizona had been given until this year to comply with PREA, which is intended to “establish a zero-tolerance standard for the incidence of prison rape in prisons in the United States.” Various provisions of the law are intended to address better reporting of prison sexual assaults, staff training, and treatment of victims.
A 2012 Presidential Memorandum implementing PREA states that “sexual violence, against any victim, is an assault on human dignity, and an affront to American values.” PREA was enacted and established a “zero-tolerance standard for rape in prisons in the United States.”
Donna Leone Hamm, executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform in Tempe, stated, “There are very few Arizona legislators that authentically care about inmate safety . . . they’re sending a clear message to the families [of inmates] about the priorities of the Arizona Department of Corrections.”
States that do not comply with PREA will be impacted greatly, receiving a 5 percent reduction in funding. Arizona argues that the “effect is virtually nil” as the agency receives very little to no money from the federal government as it is. Some states argue that it would cost millions to meet PREA standards, with little benefit from those costs. When Hamm was asked why Arizona hasn’t complied yet, she stated that “there is no excuse.”
To learn more about this developing story, read The Cronkite News Service’s article “Arizona misses deadline on curbing prison rapes, federal funds at risk.”