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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  • Display: Sort:
    A 5% penalty for non-compliance? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Buckeye on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:32:20 PM EST
    Why not just strip all funding they would otherwise receive unless they comply?  

    Do you not want (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:41:47 PM EST
    Prisoners to have things like food and electricity and heat?

    Is all (none / 0) (#3)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:48:56 PM EST

    Is all food and electricity and heat is state slammers paid for by the feds?

    Sh*t... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:54:52 PM EST
    prisoners pay for some/most of their own food, Cup O' Noodles from the commissary...the swill the state serves is barely edible.

    Two different arguments (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:59:17 PM EST
    You (not you, specifically) may not like what they serve, but they provide it.  If a prisoner wants/needs to buy something else to eat, then that is their choice, no?

    If you strip all the funding for non-compliance (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:58:22 PM EST
    (At least in federal prisons), then there would be no money for things like food or electricity.  State prisons get money from the state as well.

    Right (none / 0) (#10)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:07:43 PM EST

    The 5% only applied to state slammers.

    So you are assuming non-compliance? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Buckeye on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:05:08 PM EST
    What about sending a message we are serious about these reforms due to the monstrous conditions of American prisons.  Whatever fed funding you receive will be cut off (meaning states will have even bigger problems meeting budgets) unless you make these provisions mandatory.

    I'm not assuming anything (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:12:00 PM EST
    I was just showing you a flaw in your logic - you wanted to call for the stiffer penalty of cutting off all funding to those prisons who did not comply. I merely pointed out that cutting off all funding for non-compliance (in federal prisons) would also mean cutting off things like food and electricity as well.

    It implies that at least some of the prisons (none / 0) (#16)
    by Buckeye on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 04:28:12 PM EST
    will not comply.  My point is that a stiff penalty is needed to prevent non-compliance.  If a penalty is set so small that a prison can perform just fine without compliance, there will not be much of an incentive to follow the more onerous provisions.    

    Yup - where are the zero-tolerance rules now? (none / 0) (#14)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:56:31 PM EST
    Same-sex strip searches/pat downs... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:01:03 PM EST
    as if there is no same sex abuse in our prisons?  Especially juvie.  

    That what I was thinking. In fact, (none / 0) (#9)
    by Buckeye on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:06:38 PM EST
    with male prisons, it would probably be safer (at the risk of being more humiliating) to ban same-sex searches.

    Better yet... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:32:15 PM EST
    put the bend over, spread 'em & cough treatment on the scrap heap of inhumane history...I think it is primarily used as a humiliation/dehumanization tactic, not so much for prison safety.

    The headline is a tad misleading (none / 0) (#12)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:19:18 PM EST

    It seemed to imply that the rules would be like:

    1. No abuse on weekends.

    2. Abuse permitted only between 4pm and 10pm.

    3. Abuser must wash hands before and after.


    Most of Rules are Probably Already in Place (none / 0) (#15)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 04:04:16 PM EST
    Zero tolerance.
    Medical treatment.
    Evidence protocols.
    Not hiring past abusers.
    Screening inmates that best protects them.
    Disciplining staff and assailants.
    Train employees for prevention.
    Allow time to report.

    I have a hard time believing that the above isn't already in practice, and it still it happens, how effective are the mandates really going to be ?

    Agree. But having rules in place is (none / 0) (#17)
    by Buckeye on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 04:33:50 PM EST
    different from actually following them.  What is needed IMO is to deliver the same treatment to prison management as being given to those in prison (punishment for breaking rules).  Cutting off funding (or at least taking a significant chunk out of fed funding) could force prisons to ensure these measures are followed.  I am not sure 5% gets it done.

    Exactly (none / 0) (#21)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 09:00:09 AM EST
    It's like threatening to cut off 5% of my budget if I don't stab old ladies, seems like something I should already be practicing, and if I'm not, doesn't seem like the 5% is going to change anything.  It's not like I am going to change my behavior, especially if that behavior is unacceptable to begin with with, just because it's mandated.

    It's any hypothesis to test, a year from now we can see if assaults have declined, I don't believe they will considering half the policies are after-the-fact.  And the other half should already be on the books.


    Most probably mabey I assume Could be (none / 0) (#19)
    by Rojas on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 08:11:34 PM EST
    Do you actually have any specific knowledge?
    You put together a list. Are these articles of faith?

    Well Common Sense... (none / 0) (#20)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 08:52:20 AM EST
    ... dictates that prisons don't have a 5 assaults a day policy, leave people bleeding from orifices after an assault, that they punish people who have committed crimes, and on and on.

    So no, I don't have any specific knowledge.  But if this not the case we have more problems than new policy mandates.


    fine (none / 0) (#18)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 05:24:48 PM EST
    Have video cameras everywhere in prisons and give inmate perpetrators of rape (the overwhelming majority of rapes in prison are by other inmates) either an extra 20 years or a transfer to supermax.