Passed in 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is the first federal civil statute focused specifically on addressing sexual violence in juvenile facilities. PREA established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which held hearings about sexual misconduct in custody, issued reports on the problem of sexual victimization in secure facilities, and proposed standards for the prevention, detection, and response to sexual misconduct in criminal and juvenile justice settings. The law provided for data collection, technical assistance, and periodic reviews of facilities with high and low rates of victimization.
Under PREA and Department of Justice regulation, juvenile correctional facilities must be audited at least every three years to be considered compliant with the PREA standards. A PREA audit entails extensive document review, facility tours, and interviews with staff and residents.
The Bucks County Youth Center recently was certified PREA compliant by the Department of Justice in meeting these new mandated Federal standards. The facility became the first juvenile detention center in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to achieve this merit. The Youth Center also joins a very elite group across the nation to be certified. The Bucks County Youth Center had the audit conducted on March 10 and 11, 2014.
“The Youth Center’s number one priority is to provide a safe and secure environment for our residents while they are awaiting completion of their court cases,” stated Bucks County Youth Center Director Ted Rice. “Our dedicated staff works very hard to try and ensure this outcome. Our success is predicated on staffs efforts and willingness to create this culture. I am very proud of all the work they did to achieve this distinction.”
The Youth Center was already committed to most of the 182 standards established by PREA. Many of the standards are best practices in place across most - if not all- juvenile facilities in Pennsylvania. These new standards also allowed the Youth Center to partner with outside agencies to provide support and counseling to victims of sexual assault, regardless of where the incident took place.