PRISON RAPE ELIMINATION ACT (PREA)

What is PREA?

The Prison Rape Elimination Act, also known as PREA was passed into law in 2003.  The goal of PREA is to insure that all correctional facilities have measures in place to keep inmates free from any form of sexual abuse from other inmates, staff or any other person who enters the correctional facility.  This is accomplished by establishing a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for all forms of sexual abuse.  All persons entering the Columbia County Correctional Facility must receive information on the facilities policy on conduct and reporting of sexual abuse.  All persons must sign that they have read and understand the information in this brochure and they are aware that the facility has a ZERO TOLERANCE policy in regard to sexual abuse.  Your signature will be kept on file for future visits.  If you have any questions please ask a staff member for assistance.

The Columbia County Jail mandates zero tolerance toward all forms of sexual abuse, including:

1.  Inmate-on-Inmate Sexual Abuse:  one or more inmates engage in sexual conduct, including sexual contact, and/or penetration, with another inmate against his or her will or by threats, intimidation or other coercive actions.

2.  Inmate-on-Inmate Sexual Harassment:  repeated and unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal comments, or gestures or actions of a derogatory or offensive sexual nature by one inmate to another.

3.  Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Abuse:  is when an employee or volunteer engages in sexual conduct, including sexual contact, and/or penetration with an inmate.

4.  Staff-on-Inmate Sexual harassment:  repeated verbal comments or gestures of a sexual nature to an inmate by a staff member.  Such statements include demeaning references to gender, sexually suggestive or derogatory comments about body or clothing, or obscene language or gestures.

About Inmates Rights:

Inmates have the right to be safe from sexual abuse.  No one has the right to pressure an inmate to engage in sexual acts.  No inmate has to tolerate sexual abuse or pressure to engage in unwanted sexual behaviors.  If an inmate is being pressured, threatened or extorted for sex, they are advised to report this to staff.  Inmates should also report any retaliation they believe occurred due to reporting an incident of sexual abuse or participating in an investigation of an allegation of sexual abuse.

What inmates are advised to do if they are assaulted-  
If an inmate becomes a victim of sexual abuse, they should report it immediately to staff who will offer immediate protection from the abuser and will refer them to medical examination and clinical assessment.  Assistance will be provided regardless of whether or not they name the responsible inmates or staff members however, specific information may make it easier for staff to help.

Common responses-
Be aware of the common reactions to being sexually assaulted:  Fear, feeling of losing control, having flashbacks, problems concentrating, feeling dirty, guilt, shame, denial, anger, helplessness and depression.  If you observe any of these reactions from an inmate you should immediately report it to a staff member.  the individual or individuals responsible for sexually abusing or assaulting inmates can only be disciplined and/or prosecuted if the abuse is reported.

Inmate Reporting:

How does an inmate report an incident of Sexual Abuse?  
it is important that they begin by telling a staff member.  They can tell any corrections security staff member, medical staff member, mental health worker, counselor, chaplain or any other staff member.  Staff are instructed to keep the reported information confidential and only discuss it with the appropriate officials on a need to know basis.

If an inmate chooses to first report the abuse or threats in writing, they many write to the shift supervisor, corrections counselor, chaplain, jail administrator, mental health worker or any other staff member.  However, any delay in reporting an incident will make investigating the incident far more difficult.

Visitor Reporting:

An inmate may choose to report the abuse to any person of their choosing, including those who are not staff of the Columbia County Jail.  This may mean they report it to you.  If you are told by anyone, including a third party, that an act of sexual abuse may have occurred in this facility, you MUST report this to the appropriate authority.  This can be done by immediately advising any staff member.  This will ensure immediate interaction by staff to stop the action and begin the necessary investigation.  You may also report this to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Division at 518-828-3344.  You may also choose to report the abuse to the Columbia County Rape Crisis Center at the number below.  Remember, it is your responsibility to immediately report any knowledge of sexual abuse in this facility.  Any delay may seriously affect the inmate's well being and the outcome of the investigation.

Any person wanting to report a case of sexual abuse may choose to contact the Columbia County Rape Crisis Provider at (Reach Center) 542 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534, phone number 518-828-5556 or may dial the hotline number toll free from inside the housing unit, at 1-888-943-2472.

What happens when an incident of Sexual Abuse is reported?

All allegations of sexual abuse and retaliation for reporting an incident or sexual abuse or for participating in an investigation of an allegation of sexual abuse will be thoroughly investigated and may also be reported to appropriate law enforcement officials.  No reprisals of any kind shall be taken against anyone for good faith reporting of sexual abuse or sexual threats.  However, if investigation discloses that a person has falsely made allegations, knowingly, intentionally or with malice, he or she may be disciplined and/or charged with falsely reporting an incident as described in NYS Penal Law.

Avoiding Sexual Abuse:

Here are some things inmates can do to protect themselves against sexual abuse:

1.  Do not permit their emotions (fear/anxiety) to be obvious to others.

2.  Do not accept gifts or favors from others.  Most gifts or favors come with strings attached to them.

3.  Do not accept an offer from another inmate to be your protector.

4.  Find a staff member with whom you feel comfortable discussing your fears and concerns.

5.  Be alert!  Do not use contraband substances such as drugs or alcohol.  These can weaken your ability to stay alert and make good judgments.

6.  Be direct and firm if others ask you to do something you don't want to do.  Do not give mixed messages to other inmates regarding your wishes or sexual activity.

7.  Stay in assigned ares of the jail.

8.  Choose your associates wisely.

9.  Trust your instincts.  If you sense that a situation may be dangerous, it probably is.  If you fear for your safety, report your concerns to staff.

10.  Follow the Inmate Rules.

Confidentiality:

Information concerning the identity of an inmate victim reporting a sexual assault or abuse, and facts of the report itself, shall be limited to those involved in the reporting, investigating, discipline and treatment process, or as otherwise required by law.  If you would like to view the sheriff's Office PREA Policy, please click HERE.  Please click HERE to review the annual data collection survey.