By Prison Legal News
As described in this issue’s cover story, in May 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice issued a final rule adopting national standards pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The rule was published in the Federal Register and became effective on August 20, 2012; however, state and local corrections agencies were given one year to provide PREA-related training to current employees. Likewise, the first PREA audit cycle, to ensure compliance with the standards, didn’t begin until a year after the rule’s effective date.
Therefore, during the one-year period ending August 20, 2013, state and local corrections officials finalized policies to comply with the PREA standards and trained staff members on PREA-related issues, including “zero-tolerance [policies] for sexual abuse and sexual harassment” and “[h]ow to fulfill their responsibilities under agency sexual abuse and sexual harassment prevention, detection, reporting, and response policies and procedures.”
Concurrently, prison and jail employees nationwide continued a long-standing pattern of raping and sexually assaulting prisoners – a pattern that Prison Legal News has documented extensively. [See, e.g.: PLN, April 2012, p.1; May 2009, p.1; Aug. 2006, p.1].
The following are examples of rape and sexual abuse involving corrections staff reported from August 20, 2012 – when the PREA standards became effective – to August 20, 2013, the start of the first PREA audit cycle. Apparently, these prison and jail employees didn’t pay attention during their PREA training.
On June 19, 2013, two Russell County jail guards were arrested for engaging in sexual misconduct with female prisoners. Jacob Brent Phelps and James Blain were charged with felony sexual misconduct with an inmate; another guard, Charles Tarver, was fired for having “inappropriate conversations” of a sexual nature with prisoners. Phelps and Blain were released on $10,000 bond.