Raleigh, North Carolina – A new bill in the NC House aims to prevent the sexual assault of children in adult jails and prisons. HB 585, sponsored by Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), will require county jails and state prisons to regularly report how they are addressing life and death safety issues under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
“First and foremost, our children are in danger and we must act to keep them safe,” says Rep. Lewis. “Housing youth — the great majority of whom have committed minor crimes – in adult jails and prisons places children at risk of sexual assault, physical harm and suicide. This bill prevents that.”
Unanimously approved by the Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in August 2012 require adult jails and prisons to separate youth from adults in adult facilities because:
- The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission found that “more than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk for sexual abuse.”
- According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, youth under the age of 18 represented 21 percent of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005, and 13 percent in 2006-disproportionately high since only one percent of jail inmates are youth.
- Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility.
Child advocates throughout the state are contacting local representatives to support PREA implementation throughout April — national Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Out of Compliance, Ineligible for Funding
How many North Carolina jails are out of compliance? Advocates encourage local press to check with their sheriff as to whether county facilities are in compliance and what their plans are to keep children safe.
HB 585 would require North Carolina to report its compliance across all state run or contracted jails and prisons to federal PREA standards by August 2013. If North Carolina is determined to be out of compliance with PREA, the state could face financial penalties in federal grant money from the Department of Justice.