County supervisors propose reforms to prevent rape, sexual assault in jails, detention facilities

Supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl on Nov. 14 proposed creating Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)-compliance units to prevent sexual assault and rape in the county’s jails and detention units.
According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80,000 women and men a year are sexually abused in U.S. correctional facilities. The PREA was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003 to eliminate sexual abuse of both juveniles and adults who are confined in prisons, jails, station lockups and other detention facilities. PREA standards bar cross-gender strip searches, mandate that inmates are provided a way to report sexual abuse to an outside independent entity and require facilities to pass an audit every three years on PREA compliance.
However, no facility within the Los Angeles county jail system or LA County Probation Department has undergone an audit, according to Hahn’s office. In addition, neither the Sheriff’s Department nor the Probation Department has sufficient staff dedicated to PREA compliance, a shortcoming that was reported by the Office of the Inspector general.
“Sexual assault is abhorrent and inexcusable no matter where it occurs, but it is especially disturbing when it happens in our detention facilities where victims may feel they have no power and no recourse,” Hahn said. “I think our LA County facilities have some serious shortcomings in this area, and we must act now to protect those in our custody.”
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion authored by Hahn and coauthored by Kuehl directing the LA County CEO, Sheriff’s Department and Probation Department to report back in 90 days on funding possibilities for two PREA-compliance units housed in the Probation and Sheriff’s departments. The motion also directs the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission, the Office of the Inspector General and the Probation Department to report back in 90 days on progress made in developing plans for PREA compliance in jails and juvenile detention facilities, including a complaint procedure for inmates.
“Every inmate in our county facilities has the right be treated with dignity,” Kuehl said. “No inmate should be forced to experience the trauma of sexual abuse, and these acts by county employees in positions of trust will be punished. We will do everything we can to end this intolerable violence, and this motion will begin that important process.”

Source: Hahn’s office

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