Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
What is PREA?
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 (with Final Rule Aug. 2012) is a federal law established to address the elimination and prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment within correctional systems and detention facilities across the country. The Act applies to all correctional facilities, including prisons, jails, juvenile facilities and community corrections residential facilities (including LSS ARJ Residential Programs). PREA incidents involve these types of conduct:
- resident-on-resident sexual assault
- resident-on-resident abusive sexual contact
- staff sexual misconduct
- staff sexual harassment of a resident
What is Zero Tolerance?
Zero tolerance means that our LSS Addictions and Restorative Justice programs will not tolerate sexual abuse of any kind within our environment. Guidelines and procedures are in place to reduce client risk of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Our role is to prevent, respond, report and investigate all incidents of staff sexual misconduct and resident on resident sexual abuse and harassment.
Our PREA Policy
We are committed to ensuring a safe and humane environment for our residents. All residents can expect to have privacy while toileting, showering, and changing clothes. There may be an assigned roommate (same gender) present while changing, but staff of an opposite gender will never view a resident while toileting, showering, or changing. If a resident is not comfortable changing their clothes in the presence of a same gendered roommate, they may utilize the bathroom for absolute privacy while changing clothes. An important part of a safe and humane environment is freedom from sexual misconduct by staff and sexual abuse and harassment from other residents.
If a situation poses danger of harm to self or others, an employee has the duty to protect. The employee shall immediately call 911 or local law enforcement in emergency situations. The duty to protect can be carried out through a number of means that include, but are not limited to, the warning of a third party. An employee may feel it is in the best interest of the client and others to have the client detained if he or she is mentally ill, drug dependent or developmentally disabled and exhibits any of the following:
- A substantial probability of physical harm to self or others as evidenced by recent threats or attempts at suicide or serious bodily harm;
- A substantial probability of physical harm to other persons as evidenced by recent homicidal or other violent behavior on his or her part, or by evidence that others are placed in reasonable fear of violent behavior and serious physical harm to them that is evidenced by a recent overt act, attempt, or threat to do serious physical harm on his or her part; and/or
- A substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to himself or herself due to impaired judgment, as manifested by evidence of recent act or omission. If reasonable provisions for the individual’s protection are available in the community and there is a reasonable probability that the individual will take advantage of services or is in the services of a treatment facility, reporting may not be required.
Staff Sexual Misconduct is Prohibited
Staff sexual misconduct includes sexual acts or behaviors that occur, consensually or non-consensually, between a staff member, volunteer, contractor, or agency representative and a resident. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Any sexual act by staff members
- Any sexual advance by staff members
- Requests for sexual favors by staff members
- Threats by staff for refusing sexual advances
- Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature by staff members
- Invasion of client privacy beyond that reasonably necessary for safety and security
- Intentional touching of genitals, anus, groin, breast, or inner thigh area to gratify sexual desire
- Indecent exposure by a staff member in front of a client
- Kissing, touching, inappropriate comments about your personal appearance
Staff sexual misconduct also includes sexual harassment. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Demeaning references to a client’s gender
- Derogatory comments about a client’s gender
- Jokes about sex or gender specific traits
- Abusive, threatening, profane or degrading sexual comments
- Touching, attention, language or conduct of a sexual nature
Sexual acts or sexual contacts between any staff person and a client even if the client consents, initiates, or pursues – is prohibited and illegal.
A grievance or report may be made at any time without time limitations. Further, a grievance may be filed without submitting it to a staff member who is the subject of the complaint, and such a complaint is not referred to the staff member who is the subject of the complaint.
The agency will issue a final decision on the merits of any portion of a grievance alleging sexual abuse within 90 days of the initial filing of the grievance. Computation of the 90 day time period does not include time consumed by residents preparing an appeal. The agency may claim an extension of time to respond of up to 70 days, if the normal time period for responding is insufficient to make an appropriate decision. At any level of the administrative process, if the resident does not receive a response within the time allotted, the resident may consider the absence of a response to be a denial at that level.
Resident–on–Resident Sexual Abuse and Harassment is Prohibited
No resident has the right to pressure another resident to engage in sexual acts or unwanted sexual behavior, or to sexually harass another resident. Examples of unwanted sexual behavior include:
- One or more residents engaging in, or attempting to engage in, a sexual act with another resident using threats, intimidation, inappropriate touching, or other actions and/or communications by one or more residents aimed at coercing and/or pressuring another resident to engage in a sexual act.
- If one or more resident have participated in prohibited behaviors, sanctions will be given to those individuals and could include a number of possibilities including: restriction from recreation time, no outside activities, an apology letter written to the victim of their actions, and or removal from the facility.
Reporting Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment, or Staff Sexual Misconduct
A resident who is a victim of sexual abuse, assault, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment or staff sexual misconduct while in custody by any law enforcement agency, correctional facility, or as a halfway house resident, or a person who knows of an incident of sexual assault of a person in the custody of any law enforcement agency, correctional facility, or in this program, is requested to report it immediately!
Reports can be made in any of the following ways:
- In writing
- By a Third Party
All reported incidents will be referred to law enforcement, and all reported incidents will be investigated. This includes incidents that just happened, as well as incidents that happened months or years ago.
- Tell any staff member at this program: it is part of their job to report any allegations, to ensure your safety, and to maintain confidentiality
- Tell a community probation/parole agent
- Contact the Manager for this program:
- Brittany Nessel, Exodus House (Hudson) and Wazee House (Black River Falls)
- Lynda Olson, Affinity House and Fahrman Center (both in Eau Claire)
- Deb Adamus, Cephas House (Waukesha)
These Managers also function as clinical supervisors and are at the program weekly.
- PREA Director – WI DOC, PO Box 7925, Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7925
- Contact the LSS PREA coordinator: Laurie Lessard at 715-456-5735
- Contact the director of LSS Addictions and Restorative Justice Programs, Laurie Lessard at 715-456-5735
- Send a letter to the PREA director at the Department of Corrections Central Office:
- Report it directly to local law enforcement by calling 9-1-1
What happens when I report an incident of abuse?
We will investigate all allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and staff sexual misconduct. We may work with the WI Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons, depending on supervision status. Specially trained individuals will be assigned to investigate promptly, thoroughly and objectively, and gather and preserve direct and circumstantial evidence.
During an investigation, a number of actions may occur if it is determined to be in the best interest of the client, the staff, the program/facility, in cooperation with WI DOC or the FBOP:
- Separate the alleged victim and abuser. For a client who is alleged to have abused another client, this may mean transfer to another facility. For a staff person who is alleged to have abused a client, this may mean the staff person is placed on restricted duty and/or barred from the facility, relocated to a different work site or suspended.
- Residents could be relocated for their safety. Offenders under the supervision of Probation and Parole could be assigned to a new supervising Agent. Clients will not be punished for reporting sexual misconduct. In fact, every effort will be made to ensure their protection.
Keep in mind a thorough investigation takes time. The investigation must clearly support or refute any allegation with evidence, information gathered from witnesses, and documentation.
Possible Outcomes of an Investigation
After the investigation is finished, a decision will be reached and the person making the report will be informed of that decision:
- Substantiated allegation: the allegation was investigated and determined that there was sufficient evidence to make a final determination that the event did occur. Results of the investigation will be forwarded for prosecution, i.e. District Attorney’s Office, who will determine if charges will be filed.
- Unsubstantiated allegation: the allegation was investigated and the investigation produced insufficient evidence to make a final determination as to whether or not the event occurred.
- Unfounded allegation: the allegation was investigated and determined not to have occurred. There is insufficient evidence to conclude the allegation is true.
If the investigation proves the resident made a false allegation, she/he could receive a conduct violation while incarcerated or, if on supervision, the court or the Probation and Parole Board may be notified.
Although there was not enough evidence to prove that the allegation is true, there may be evidence to prove that another law, policy or rule was violated.
Any staff member who sexually abuses or assaults a resident will be disciplined up to and including discharge. Discipline and criminal prosecution are more likely to be successful if the abuse is reported immediately.
Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Abuse, Harassment, or Misconduct is Prohibited
Retaliation is intimidation to prevent a client or third party from filing a complaint or participating in an investigation. LSS prohibits anyone from interfering with an investigation, including intimidation or retaliation against witnesses. A resident who believes he/she is being unfairly transferred or punished in some way because of a filed complaint or because of assisting in the investigation of a complaint is asked to report this immediately to the Program Supervisor or Investigator.
Help is Available
Staff will work with residents and their Probation and Parole agent to obtain community treatment, medical and mental health services in a timely manner. Please keep in mind that the professionals providing support services in the community are also mandated reporters and have a duty to warn. If a sexual assault has occurred, resident should seek medical attention as soon as possible and should not shower, brush teeth or wash clothes or underclothing. This could wash away hair or bodily fluids, which are critical evidence. Also, the resident should save anything that touched the abuser (i.e. a condom, tissue, or towel) or anything that she/he left behind. Immediately report the incident to a staff person or to local law enforcement in the community.
- Sex between clients and staff is never okay.
- If you are a victim, report it immediately.
- If you know that a resident is a victim, report it immediately.
- All reported incidents will be investigated.
- False allegations can hurt the victim and the accused.