Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Holder:
On behalf of the nation’s governors, I write to express concern with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) plans to rigidly enforce compliance deadlines associated with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Governors applaud the intent and spirit of PREA, and are taking action to prevent sexual assault in state correctional facilities. Despite the law’s enactment in 2003, delays in providing states the necessary guidance to evaluate and meet statutory and regulatory requirements have made compliance with proposed deadlines nearly impossible. Governors request your assistance in altering certification deadlines and providing flexibility in enforcement until a workable solution is found.
Congress intended for states to have two years within which to attain PREA compliance before facing penalties. In promulgating a final rule in 2012, DOJ required that one-third of all state and local detention facilities be audited for compliance each year based on four guidance instruments that would be subsequently issued. These critical audit instruments enable Governors to craft implementation plans and assess compliance. Unfortunately, the statutory timeframe for achieving compliance began upon publication of the final rule, and not the issuance of completed audit instruments – which have still not been finalized.
It was less than one month ago, on April 18, that DOJ finalized the second audit instrument required by PREA’s regulations. Additionally, delays in training and certifying auditors have prevented states from commencing audits, yet DOJ is insisting that governors certify compliance for all facilities under a state’s operational control by May 15, 2014. It is unreasonable for the federal government to extend and ignore its statutory deadlines for more than 10 years, yet threaten states with the loss of federal funding for their failure to meet arbitrarily short and inconsistent deadlines, especially when Federal facilities have not yet attained full compliance.
Governors recognize and appreciate the importance of preventing sexual assault in our nation’s correctional facilities and welcome the opportunity to work with your department to devise workable and cost-effective solutions to achieve implementation of PREA.
Cc: House and Senate Judiciary Committees
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House and Senate Leadership