NEW YORK ― The Vera Institute of Justice issued the following statement today in response to the May 17 release by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of its final regulations on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA):

The Department of Justice's release of the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape marks a milestone in corrections. As members of the National PREA Resource Center Task Force, the Vera Institute of Justice fully supports the standards and looks forward to the next phase of implementation.

Overall, the standards will go a long way toward the elimination of sexual abuse in confinement settings. In particular, there are a number of standards that aim to ensure the safety of vulnerable inmates and provide victims with access to services and supports in a coordinated, victim-centered manner. Some of these include:

  • cross-gender supervision: prohibition of cross-gender strip searches and viewing, and a phased-in ban to prohibit cross-gender pat-downs except in exigent circumstances;  
  • screening: prohibition on placing victims in segregation unless there is no alternative means for separating the victim and perpetrator;
  • audit: facility audits every three years by an external auditor certified by DOJ;  
  • access to victim advocates: access to outside victim advocates with as much confidentiality as possible;  
  • medical: sexual assault forensic medical examinations to be conducted by trained sexual assault nurse examiners; provision of prophylaxis to treat sexually transmitted infections; and availability of all lawful pregnancy options;  
  • LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) inmates: training for staff on how to screen inmates; no automatic segregation of LGBTI inmates; complete ban on searching or physically examining a transgender inmate to determine genital status; LGBTI inmates allowed to shower separately; housing assigned based on security needs and inmate's own view on safety;  
  • reporting: requirement for at least two internal reporting options and one external reporting channel and ability to report anonymously;  
  • administrative remedies: no time limit for the submission of grievances related to sexual abuse.

We also look forward to the development of standards by the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to ensure the safety of detainees at immigration detention centers and inmates held in Indian Country facilities.