JUNEAU, Alaska — Observing Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requirements, Alaska has adopted its first written policy on prison rape. The document outlines a zero-tolerance policy on sexual misconduct, and provides guidelines and procedures consistent with PREA to reduce the risk of sexual abuse and assault in correctional facilities. The policy went into effect June 12, and the state will undergo a formal PREA audit sometime in the next year.
According to the policy, the department will provide a secure environment free from the threat of sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct for all prisoners by maintaining a program of prevention, detection, response, investigation and data collection. Additionally, all department personnel, contractors and volunteers who have contact with inmates will receive PREA training in the prevention, detection, reporting and response to sexual abuse and harassment.
The document also provides clear definitions for instances of sexual acts, abuse, harassment, misconduct and staff misconduct, and outlines strict investigation and documentation policies aimed at victim safety, evidence collection and preservation, and medical evaluation.
This emphasis on education extends to state inmates, who are now legally required to be informed of their rights to remain free from sexual misconduct and retaliation for reporting such events, and will have easy access to reporting information. Inmates who are victims of sexual abuse will also be offered qualified mental health services and crisis counseling, and will be allowed to access outside trauma counseling upon request.
Sherrie Daigle, deputy director of the Alaska Department of Corrections, told local NBC affiliate KTUU in June that the previous procedure was to have state troopers investigate any reports of sexual assault. Nineteen PREA incidents had been reported between January and June, according to the news source.
U.S. Department of Justice nationwide figures show that an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and just over 3 percent of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or a facility staff member within the previous 12 months. Among youth in state juvenile facilities and state contract facilities, that rate increases to an estimated 9.5 percent over the same period.
“No one should be subjected to sexual abuse while in the custody of our justice system,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole in a statement. “It serves as a violation of fundamental rights, an attack on human dignity and runs contrary to everything we stand for as a nation. Based on these certifications and assurances, and other correspondence submitted by the governors, it is clear that addressing the issue of sexual abuse in confinement facilities is a nationwide priority.”