VICTORY: Department of Justice Releases National Standards to End Prison Rape and Abuse

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape. The Standards include specific provisions that will work to protect transgender and gender nonconforming inmates in the fight end sexual abuse in prisons. These standards were built on recommendations provided by NCTE and several allied advocates.

Specific provisions to address abuse towards transgender people and those with intersex conditions include:

  • Requiring a case-by-case consideration for housing in a male or female facility that is not based on genital status, meaning more trans women will be housed with other women.
  • Limiting the use of isolating “protective custody” that can amount to torture.
  • Limiting the use of segregated LGBTI units that are often treated as a quick fix and can stigmatize individuals.
  • Requiring staff training for professional communication with and treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming inmates and those with intersex conditions to aid in assessing inmate vulnerabilities to sexual abuse.
  • Banning the search or physical examination of transgender inmates and those with intersex conditions solely for determining their genital status.
  • Minimizing stigma and the threat of abuse from staff by disallowing dedicated LGBTQI units and facilities.
  • Requiring facilities to have multiple channels for reporting abuse without placing a time limit on when inmates can file grievances.

A study released by the DOJ this morning details the severity of the sexual victimization in prisons, jails, and community corrections facilities. Although the report found that 9.6% of state prisoners are sexually abused, a disproportionate 39% of gay male prisoners report being sexually abused by other prisoners. Overall findings point to disproportionate abuse in the LGBT community which is consistent with our analysis that more than one in three transgender former inmates were sexually abused. Studies have shown that trans women are thirteen times more likely than others to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated.

These findings are especially prevalent given the high rate of transgender individuals who are incarcerated. Seven percent of respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported being locked up at some point in their lives due to their gender identity. These rates skyrocketed for Black (41%) and Latino/a (21%) people.

In addition, the DOJ highlights the widespread backlash of correctional officers against inmates who report abuse. Their study found that 28.5% of inmates who reported being sexually abused by other inmates were punished while 37% received no response from staff at all. A substantial increase can be seen when looking at reports of staff abuse as 46.3% of the prisoners who reported to a corrections official that they had been sexually abused by a staff member were punished.

“These statistics point to a grave failure to protect individuals from abuse,” said NCTE Policy Counsel Harper Jean Tobin. “If the DOJ statistics are true, the problem can only be more pervasive for transgender inmates. And combining the trauma of sexual abuse with inadequate medical and health care may lead to other poor health outcomes like depression, substance abuse, and increased HIV infections that all take a heavy toll on survivors and their families”

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling added, “The safety of trans people behind bars is of particular concern because too often trans people are incarcerated only because they are transgender or because of how they’ve been forced to live because of being trans.”

In the midst of these unfortunate realities, the Standards released by DOJ work towards reform and provide a solid step towards eliminating sexual abuse in prisons. However, there is still room for more progress to be made. Particularly, the failure of these Standards to fully and immediately cover facilities dedicated to housing individuals detained for immigration purposes. Without these standards, transgender and other immigrant detainees remain at risk for abuse. However, this is a solid start to a widespread and serious issue.

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7 Responses to VICTORY: Department of Justice Releases National Standards to End Prison Rape and Abuse

  1. Bekka Jai says:

    This is great stuff, but I’d also like to see some attention paid to the way transgender people are treated by local police departments when they are originally arrested, not just once in prison. There’s been some pretty horrific mistreatment of trans people arrested by the NYPD recently and no one in NYC government seems to care, not even NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

    The truth is that many more trans people will be arrested and eventually let go without charge or with minor charges than will be incarcerated long-term. After a decade the NYPD still has no policy on how to deal with transgender detainees so they quite literally make it up as they go along, usually to the trans person’s detriment.

    I’d like to see some pressure directed toward NYC and similar governments to enforce the laws they already have on the books and require their police to operate in accordance with those laws.

    After all, what good is having civil rights laws in effect if there’s no effort made to ensure they’re followed?

    • Bekka Jai says:

      Whoops looks like I accidentally used my gaming account to post that…now everyone knows my “secret” gamer name…oh noes…

      Becky Juro

  2. 1epc says:

    What is this?….It has has ALWAYS been AGAINST the law, for a person to FORCE themselves on another(be it male OR female)!

    RAPE, IS RAPE, in ANY language and the victim, should ALWAYS be allowed the opportunity(UNDELAYED), to file charges against the culprit so that the ‘staue of limitation’ WON’Tto run out!….As a matter of fact, the statue of limitation should NEVER run out….PS: It doesn’t run out for others(nationalities), WHY should the rest of the people, be subjected to such ‘Human Rights’ violations?…..For MANY YEARS, state 405 of the U.S. Constitution DISABILITIES CODE, PROBITS ABUSE of ANY KIND, YET, this LAW, has been ignored, because of the MULTITUDE of PERVERTS/SEX OFFENDERS, who’s been employeed at these facilities, has been allowed to rape, while the administrators turn their heads OR participate in these rapes THEMSELVES!….IT MUST BE STOPPED, for our lovedones, are TIRED of the rapes and they should NEVER be blamed, for DEFENDING themselves!

    sign,

    Mrs. E.P.Clayton(I have a bro., at Chester MHC, been ABUSED(including sexualy), by GUARDS and one OLDER inmate/patient, who should be in JAIL and NOT in a rehabilitation facility, for rapist, are another hinderance, to our loved ones healing, for some(as by brother were), were BULLIED and for TOO long, felt he had to go along in order to be left alone, but he NOW realizes that he has the RIGHT to DEFEND himself from such perverted BULLIES!

  3. [...] gender non-conforming folks have employment protections at the national level for the first time. The Department of Justice released national standards to prevent prison rape that include specific provisions to protect trans and gender non-conforming [...]

  4. [...] gender non-conforming folks have employment protections at the national level for the first time. The Department of Justice released national standards to prevent prison rape that include specific provisions to protect trans and gender non-conforming [...]

  5. [...] gender non-conforming folks have employment protections at the national level for the first time. The Department of Justice released national standards to prevent prison rape that include specific provisions to protect trans and gender non-conforming [...]

  6. LauA says:

    Ending prisoner rape starts at the top with Eric Holder. But he has been indifferent to the entire campaign to end prison rape. I’ve followed this campaign to end prison rape through ‘Just Detention International’. Eric Holder has resisted every step of the way.

    Staff members at correctional facilities have to be prosecuted. Not a mention of that anywhere.. Without immediate and real consequences for assaulting the trans women in correctional facilities it won’t stop.

    SOLUTION: There should be video monitoring/recording by an outside/independent agency to ensure that these facilities are kept on their toes. The video monitoring has to cover every square inch of these facilities. Yes it costs money but it should be paid for by the institution or the D.O.J.

    When a prisoner files a sexual assault allegation they should be reporting these assaults to the same outside/independent source NOT the correctional facility. Verification could be done with the video records and criminal charges filed against the perpetrator.

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