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Federal prison rape elimination act may cost counties money

August 21, 2014
OSSIPEE — The Carroll County Commissioners discussed how the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act might impact county and local law enforcement agencies.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress, according to the National PREA Resource Center. Commissioner David Sorenson brought up the topic during the commission's Aug. 13 meeting. He said PREA would affect the sheriff's department and county jail primarily, and announced that training for personnel will be held on Sept. 8 and 9th at the Primex training facility in Concord. An announcement of the upcoming training will be sent to the chair of the Legislative Delegation and subcommittees.

Commissioner Dave Babson, who is the commission liaison to the House of Corrections, said the impact of PREA was discussed during the monthly NH Association of Counties meeting.

"This is a federal law that will cost the county a lot of money in inspections, certifications. I'll attend as jail liaison but I hope others will attend also," he said.

Sorenson said there are only two certified PREA inspectors in the country and that they set their own costs and travel schedules. "It's not regulated one bit. Strafford County has gone so far as to send someone from the county to train the rest of the people in the state. At the NH Association of Counties meeting, everyone was concerned about it. Don't like the cost, but it looks like we have to do it," he added.

Babson said PREA includes requirements on training, segregation and transporting of prisoners in police holding cells and in jail, and includes physical requirements to facilities.

In public comment, Ed Comeau said he was confused that the federal government could tell the states what to do at the county level. He saw the PREA requirement as an unfunded mandate and Babson agreed.

In response to his query whether the county had a PREA-type of policy for rape prevention, Babson said the only things in place was training for corrections officers.

"I think the states should tell the feds to stay out of this. This should be a state responsibility. I'm not for letting anything go on in the jail that shouldn't happen," Comeau said, adding, "This is a state's rights issue."

In other business, commissioners signed the contract with Excel Construction for demolition of two wings of the old nursing home, roof repair and renovation of the laundry area for $69,310. The county Legislative Delegation reviewed the bid at its Aug. 11 meeting.

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