DOJ Issues Rules on Prison Sexual Abuse
The Department of Justice today announced new rules for the Bureau of Prisons and other correctional agencies for addressing and preventing sexual abuse of inmates.
The Justice Department today released a proposed rule that aims to prevent and respond to sexual abuse in incarceration settings, in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Based on recommendations of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), the proposed rule contains four sets of national standards aimed at combating sexual abuse in four types of confinement facilities: adult prisons and jails, juvenile facilities, lockups and community confinement facilities.
A 60-day public comment period will follow publication in the Federal Register, after which the department will make revisions as warranted and the standards will be published as a final rule. The department expects the final rule will be published by the end of the year.
The standards will be immediately binding on the federal Bureau of Prisons upon publication. States that do not comply with the standards may lose five percent of the funds they would otherwise receive for prison purposes from DOJ.
There are separate standards for each of the four categories of facilities: [More...]
Each of the four sets of standards consists of 11 categories: prevention planning; responsive planning; training and education; screening for risk of sexual victimization and abusiveness; reporting; official response following an inmate report; investigations; discipline; medical and mental care; data collection and review; and audits.
The standards require correctional agencies to:
- Ban cross-gender strip searches, and for juveniles, cross-gender pat-down searches;
- Check the backgrounds of new hires and not hire past abusers;
- Establish an evidence protocol to preserve evidence following an incident and train investigators to act promptly and diligently;
- Screen inmates through a process that takes into account their safety and assign them to housing in a way that best protects them;
- Provide multiple methods to report sexual abuse;
- Provide inmates access to outside victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual abuse;
- Provide appropriate medical and mental health care to victims;
- Prepare a written policy mandating zero tolerance toward all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment;
- Discipline staff and inmate assailants appropriately, with termination as the presumptive disciplinary sanction for staff who have engaged in sexual touching;
- Train employees on their responsibilities in preventing, recognizing and responding to sexual abuse;
- Allow inmates a reasonable amount of time to file grievances so as to preserve their ability to seek legal redress after exhausting administrative remedies; and
- Conduct audits to assess compliance.
The Justice Department’s complete rule is here.
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