The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) has been around since 2003, but widespread compliance is still a challenge for many government bodies. For example, a recent Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise report explained that an assessment of Oklahoma juvenile detention centers found that half do not comply with PREA standards. To a great extent, this problem stems from some legal uncertainty regarding whether juvenile detention centers fall under PREA regulations. Either way, however, the uneven enforcement highlights that there is some confusion around PREA certification expectations.

State governments will need to move quickly in overcoming these issues of uncertainty as the Department of Justice is adjusting PREA certification and assurance timelines.

Looking at the DOJ’s certification and assurance plans
The DOJ uses grants to encourage state governments to ramp up their PREA efforts. Basically, if a state’s correctional facilities have completed audits and can certify PREA compliance, their grants will be unaffected by PREA-related measures. If the state has performed audits and is not compliant with PREA, but can assure that it will spend at least five percent of grant funding on achieving PREA compliance, grants from the state will be the same. However, if a state is non-compliant and cannot offer assurances that it will use grant funding to achieve compliance, its corrections-related grants will be reduced by five percent.

Certifications and assurances associated with PREA auditing previously had to be submitted by May 15, which was problematic because the audit year for PREA certification ended on April 19. The DOJ is moving that date to better align the end of the audit year. For 2016, this will create an unusual situation in which state governments will need to submit reports for multiple years. Re-certification/Assurance reports for Audit Year 2 will be due on March 31, 2016, with Re-certification/Assurance reports for Audit Year 3 coming due on October 15, 2016.

Simplifying internal audits can make PREA reporting more valuable
Whether you are working to protect your grants or ensure you get that five percent of funding you need to assure PREA compliance, having simple, streamlined internal auditing process can go a long way in maximizing the value of grant funding. Spending heavily on audits detracts from that value. Cost-efficient document management software lets you track all of your policies, training materials and other documentation measures digitally, making it much easier to compile reports. Key compliance data is housed within an online application, letting you use audit trail software capabilities to quickly document your compliance or develop measures to assure that you will be able to work toward compliance moving forward.