For The Prevention, Detection, Response, and
Sexual Abuse in:
Sexual abuse of people in confinement violates their basic human rights, impedes the likelihood of their successful reentry into the community, and violates the Government’s obligation to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement. The government’s obligation is even stronger when it comes to ensuring the safety of young people in its custody, youth who by virtue of their age are even more vulnerable to abuse and less likely to be able to protect themselves.
The juvenile justice system was created in recognition of the developmental differences between adult and juvenile offenders and the need to provide a rehabilitative and therapeutic environment for young offenders to ensure they become healthy and productive members of society. Sexual abuse of juveniles in confinement is not only traumatic for young offenders, but also extremely disruptive to the rehabilitative process. No juvenile court sentence, regardless of the offense, should ever include rape. A core priority of any confinement facility must be safety, which means protecting the safety of all—the public, the staff, and the resident population. In recognition of this, Congress formed the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC or Commission) to develop national standards that will help eliminate prison rape and other forms of sexual abuse in confinement.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 requires agencies to comply with the national standards proposed by the Commission and approved and promulgated by the Attorney General to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement. Fundamental to an agency’s success will be its commitment to zero tolerance of sexual abuse—a recognition that sexual abuse in confinementt facilities is unacceptable under any circumstances and as dangerous a threat to institutional security as an escape or homicide. Agencies must demonstrate zero tolerance not merely by words and written policy, but through their actions, including what they do to prevent sexual abuse and their response when it occurs.
The standards developed by NPREC are organized as follows:
Not mandatory: tool for tracking compliance
Not mandatory: provides commentary and guidance
Each standard statement contains mandatory requirements. Under each standard statement is an assessment checklist. The assessment checklists are designed as a tool for agencies and facilities to self-assess and track their progress toward meeting the standards. They are also meant to be a starting point for the external audit of a facility’s compliance with the standards. The agency head, facility head, PREA coordinator, or a designee must complete the assessment checklists for every standard. Although answering “yes” to each checklist item is not mandatory, meeting the requirements in the standard is mandatory. Therefore, when completing a given checklist, if an official answers “no” to a checklist question but believes the facility/agency is meeting the requirements of the standard using a different process or procedure, he or she should explain how the alternative process or procedure meets the standard. The PREA coordinator or other official should attach documentation of compliance with the standard to the checklist unless compliance is self-evident.
After each assessment checklist is a discussion of the standard. Discussion sections provide explanation for the rationale of the standard and, in some cases, offer guidance for achieving compliance with it. Although the discussion sections sometimes offer further clarification on the meaning of terms or phrases used in the standard, the glossary should be used as the primary source for the meaning of terms or phrases. The discussion sections do not contain any additional mandatory requirements. When mandatory requirements are mentioned in a discussion section, they have been drawn directly from the standard statement.
In crafting these standards, NPREC has kept in mind the following overarching considerations: (1) agency and facility heads should retain the flexibility, responsibility, and authority to establish systems, practices, and protocols that will eliminate sexual abuse in their confinement facilities; (2) successful compliance with the standards and elimination of sexual abuse require ongoing systemic efforts to assess and adjust policies, practices, and the allocation of resources to address problems and improve safety; and (3) greater transparency of the agency’s sexual abuse data and efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse will improve public trust and confidence in our Nation’s juvenile facilities and aid in the elimination of sexual abuse in confinement.
The Commission recognizes the importance of the juvenile justice system’s rehabilitative philosophy and approach to improving outcomes for youth and keeping youth safe while in confinement. As a result, although many of the PREA standards for juvenile facilities are similar to the standards for adult prisons and jails, the standards for juvenile facilities take into account the major differences between adult and juvenile confinement facilities in such areas as the availability of and access to programs, the psychological and physical development of the detained population, and staff training requirements and responsibilities. These standards also speak to many legal issues uniquely relevant to the care and supervision of youth in confinement settings, including State and local mandatory reporting requirements for all acts of abuse against children. Finally, the juvenile standards address the wide age and developmental range among youth confined in a single facility, with some jurisdictions housing individuals as young as 10 or as old as 24 together in the same facility.
These standards are the product of lengthy study, consultation and reflection. The Commission held eight public hearings, during which more than 100 witnesses testified, including corrections and juvenile justice leaders, formerly incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse in confinement, researchers, investigators, prosecutors, and advocates for victims and the incarcerated. In addition, the Commission convened expert committees comprised of similarly diverse stakeholders with broad juvenile justice expertise to help inform the content of the standards during the drafting process. Site visits to a cross-section of confinement facilities enabled the Commission to receive feedback on the draft standards from a variety of corrections and juvenile justice officials. NPREC also conducted a thorough review of the literature. Finally, during its 60-day public comment period, the Commission received and considered comments on the standards, many extensive in nature, from more than 145 individuals or entities representing a wide range of perspectives.
The Commission believes that full adoption of these standards by all of the Nation’s juvenile facilities is necessary to achieve the elimination of sexual abuse in confinement facilities as Congress intended in passing PREA.