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Contact: Jesse Lerner-Kinglake
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E-mail: jkinglake@justdetention.org

White House Budget Falls Short — Despite Funding for PREA

  • May 24, 2017

Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., May 24, 2017 – Just Detention International (JDI) shares the bipartisan dismay over the White House’s budget proposal and calls on Congress to pass a budget that ensures the safety of prisoners while dramatically reducing the overall number of people who are locked up. However, one of the few bright spots in the proposal is the increase — supported by Attorney General Jeff Sessions — in spending on programs to implement the national Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards.

“The federal government should invest in programs that will keep our communities safe, reduce mass incarceration, and ensure every prisoner’s absolute right to be free from sexual abuse,” said Lovisa Stannow, JDI’s Executive Director. “The White House’s budget would hurt the effort to achieve these goals. At the same time, additional spending on the PREA standards — a tool that is proven to make detention facilities safer — deserves praise and must be included in the final budget that is passed by Congress.”

Released yesterday, President Trump’s budget includes $700 million in cuts to Justice Department programs. Although the budget did not identify the programs that would be affected, a blueprint released earlier in the month suggested that the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) could be on the chopping block. JDI is hopeful that Congress will protect funding for OVW programs, which support vital services for victims of violence both in the community and behind bars.

Despite many areas of concern among stakeholders across the political spectrum, one encouraging sign is the budget’s proposed $15.5 million in spending on essential prisoner rape prevention efforts — a roughly 50 percent increase over last year. In addition to helping corrections agencies adopt the PREA standards, the funding will support nationwide surveys of youth and adult detainees’ experiences with sexual violence and much needed quality improvements in the PREA audit program. JDI pressed the federal government to increase its funding commitment to PREA after funding levels for such efforts had dipped significantly over the last two years.

“We know sexual abuse in detention can be stopped, and that full implementation of the PREA standards is the best way to do so,” said Stannow. “Some agencies are already doing this vital work — but, nationwide, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what PREA can accomplish. The proposed increase in PREA funding will help ensure that the standards fulfill their potential of stimulating real change inside detention facilities.”

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Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention.