Sexual Abuse of Youth in Custody: What Makes a Facility Sexually Safe?

If you work in the world of juvenile corrections, you’ve read the stories: reports of a staff member sexually abusing or harassing a youth in confinement. It has become clearer that this is not a problem limited to just male staff — in fact there is a well-documented trend of young teenage boys being victimized by female staff.

In addition, youth are at risk of being sexually abused or harassed by other youth. Overall, nearly 1 in 10 adjudicated youth report being sexually victimized while in a juvenile facility.

If you are a leader in a juvenile correctional facility, you might wonder, is my facility sexually safe? When a facility is sexually safe, the culture supports reporting and overall safety, and you can be confident that what you expect is happening to promote prevention, detection and response is actually happening.

From our work in the field, we know that many, if not most, facilities do everything they can to create a safe living situation for kids. Many struggle to keep policies and technology updated and to make sure staff get state-of-the-art training to outpace dated views of juvenile supervision when the time and budget is not often available to support these vital components of running a facility.

Many facilities have rigorous expectations for staff, but how well are those practices sustained on any given day? We will focus on reporting, operational factors and examine the often-forgotten crucial piece of the puzzle: facility culture.

Strong policy and procedure are the foundation, but not the whole solution. Writing down and formally signing expectations and requirements of staff, as well as the procedures or “how” those policies are carried out, are an important first step. Does the facility have a comprehensive written policy on youth sexual abuse and harassment that includes an explicit statement of zero tolerance? Does it include the ways to prevent, detect and respond to abuse, to include the requirement for immediate reporting and a variety of reporting avenues for staff and youth?

Often, facilities have policy and procedure that looks good on paper, but actual practice does not line up. There are a variety of reasons why we may see policy and practice out of alignment. Perhaps the policy is outdated and staff have been trained to do something different than what policy or procedure requires. Perhaps the requirements outlined are truly not feasible — in some cases staff, despite their best efforts, can’t implement what is required.

Often over time duties get added but nothing is removed, leading to a situation in which it is not possible to complete all required tasks in available time. Perhaps the culture of the facility does not support the best practice outlined in policy and procedure. Let’s unpack this last one.

What do we mean by culture? The National Institute of Corrections has defined culture as “the sum of the organization’s attitudes, beliefs, values, norms, and prejudices that cause an organization to do what it does.” Our beliefs help explain experiences that we all share, our values are what is considered right or good, and our norms are how people describe the way things are done or the way things are.

Let’s take reporting for example — the reality is that even when policy is strong, in some facilities every incident is not reported, or not all reports are taken seriously. If the policy and procedure are strong, if the avenues to report are clear and accessible, what gets in the way of reporting? Attitudes, values, and beliefs.

Perhaps increased reporting from certain youth is explained as being a result of mental illness or manipulation; perhaps there is a deeply held value that the word of staff should always be believed over the word of youth; perhaps the norm is that reports are evaluated based on a gut feeling rather than a thorough investigation.

What if staff or youth fear retaliation from their peers if they report incidents or suspicions of abuse or harassment? What if some staff use their power inappropriately? Staff have the keys, decide who goes to recreation, who gets dessert and who gets a phone call home. That power can be used as a positive influence to encourage constructive behavior from the youth in their care or negatively to leverage a youth, buy his or her silence or to retaliate for a youth’s report of abuse. Among youth, peer pressure and gang affiliation often lead to youth remaining silent or doing something out-of-character related to sexual safety.

If your facility has solid policy and procedure on reporting and grievances but receives no reports, that is a red flag that something may be getting in the way of reporting. When it comes to sexual abuse and harassment, reports signal a reporting culture — if you have reports, you can take action to protect youth.

If you see indicators of a code of silence among youth or staff, such as reluctance to ask questions or raise issues, indications that reporting or writing grievances is useless, or if you hear reluctance to be a “snitch” or a “rat,” you may have cultural factors in play that are interfering with reporting. If reporting for staff or youth is difficult or impossible, abuse can be more likely to occur, because there is a shared understanding that abuse is unlikely to be reported.

What can you do as a leader?

  • Put forth clear expectations around reporting, respectful interactions, confidentiality and retaliation monitoring and ensure that both staff and youth are held accountable. Make sure that staff and youth know you are serious about sexual safety, safe reporting and respectful interactions. It is important to do this formally — through policy, procedures, memos, etc. — and informally by being visible to staff and youth and accessible to talk with them.
  • Ensure that all youth are told at intake, and reminded throughout their stay by way of posters, handbooks and ongoing discussion, how to report sexual abuse by another youth or by a staff person. Make sure they know about hotlines, written reports, the ability to send a letter to someone outside the facility, that they can report without saying who they are, their parents or guardians can help them report and that they can talk to any trusted adult.

Reporting sexual abuse and harassment is only one example of how our culture (attitudes, values and beliefs) drives how our agencies function operationally. Ensuring comprehensive, up-to-date and clear policy and then translating that policy into consistent staff action so that all youth feel safe to seek help when they feel unsafe or think someone else is unsafe is the goal. Great facilities do both and the kids are safer for it.

Wendy Leach, J.D., is a senior consultant with The Moss Group, where she provides her expertise in the Prison Rape Elimination Act and physical and sexual safety in confinement. Previously she was a prosecutor in Baltimore, managed a federal settlement agreement with the Department of Justice and later served as the statewide director of quality improvement for Maryland’s juvenile detention facilities.

Tina Waldron is a project director with The Moss Group, where she provides leadership and expertise in evidence-based correctional practice, leadership development, reentry, mental health, agency and facility assessments, and strategic planning. Before this , she was the reentry and women’s services manager for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

UPDATE: Idaho Juvenile Facility First to be Certified PREA Compliant

Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center
Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center

UPDATE: March 11, 2014

The Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center (SIJDC) in Caldwell, Idaho became the first detention facility of any sort to be certified as compliant with the standards of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The facility houses 90 youth.

PREA was enacted by Congress to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute for Justice were mandated to conduct research on the issue and the Bureau of Justice Assistance along with the National Institute of Corrections were tasked with supporting efforts in the state, juvenile, community and jail systems.

The latest data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows 70,792 juveniles in detention as of 2010. According to the National Institute for Justice there is no consensus among researchers about the incidence of sexual assault in U.S. facilities. The most recent BJS report, from 2012, indicated that nearly 10 percent of adjudicated juveniles reported being a victim to sexual assault.

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was charged with creating standards to implement the law. The standards were released in 2009 and published in the Federal Registry in 2012.

The certification of SIJDC took place in September 2013 through a Department of Justice audit. Using interviews, policy reviews and other research the auditor made recommendations for meeting PREA standards. All changes were in place by February 2014.

Director Steven Jett noted that staff were already committed to many of the 182 standards set forth by PREA rules, including partnering with outside agencies to obtain support and counseling for victims of sexual assault. He also praised the National Partnership for Juvenile Services and its focus on educating members on sexual assault prevention and PREA compliance.

Jett, who is also a PREA auditor, volunteered his facility to undergo auditing. “It was important to show that it could be done,” he said.

He added that many of the best practices and procedures outlined in the PREA guidelines were already in place in Idaho.

“They are beneficial to kids and to the whole organization.”

He stated that his staff has embraced the process of certification and that many of the procedures are useful in other types of incidents as well.

The most important takeaway for Jett?  “Under no circumstances should sex abuse be part of anyone’s stay in confinement.”

As Prisons Prepare for PREA, Impact on Youthful Inmates May Be Major

In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) — a federal legislative proposal that sought to curb incidents of sexual assault in both adult prisons and juvenile detention facilities — was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The newly formed National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) was then tasked with establishing PREA standards; ultimately, nine years would pass before the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the final standards set forth by the NPREC.

An infographic from the Campaign for Youth Justice regarding youth in the adult criminal justice system.
An infographic from the Campaign for Youth Justice regarding youth in the adult criminal justice system.

Regarding juvenile offenders, PREA Standard 115.14, also known as the “Youthful Inmate Standard,” is perhaps the most significant aspect of the federal legislation. Under PREA, adult facilities holding inmates under the age of 18 are required to implement policies that guarantee the segregation of minors from older prisoners — a practice commonly referred to as “sight and sound separation.” Among other provisions, PREA prevents facilities from placing minors in cells with adult inmates, calls for constant supervision of juveniles in adult correctional facilities and limits the use of isolation as a penalty for young inmates.

However, the same standard is not applicable to juvenile detention centers — even though most states allow for the housing of adults in such facilities. “The PREA standards do not provide for any sight and sound separation of residents in juvenile facilities either because of age or court of conviction,” the PREA Resource Center (PRC) states. “The Youthful Inmate standard requiring separation of those under age 18 from those over 18 is ‘setting specific,’ applicable only in prisons, jails, and lockups.”

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), that operates the PREA Resource Center (PRC) alongside the Bureau of Justice Assistance, referred the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange to the PRC for official comment.

With PREA finally becoming effective on Aug. 20, 2012, the first cycle of prison audits are scheduled to begin this month. To comply with PREA, jurisdictions must complete audits of at least a third of facilities before Aug 20, 2014. States that fail to comply by next year’s deadline are subject to a penalty that would see 5 percent of their DOJ grant funds revoked. And according to the PREA Resource Center, the brunt of punitive cutbacks may be centered on state juvenile justice departments, with both the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act formula grant program cited as likely targets for de-funding.

Liz Ryan, Founder and of Campaign for Youth Justice.
Liz Ryan, founder, president and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice.” credit=” 

Liz Ryan, founder, president and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, said that while the regulatory processes behind PREA took longer than anticipated, she approves of the final standards that were authorized by the DOJ last year.

“Typically, regulations are issued within a year or two of a law passing,” she said. “This process took longer because it established a commission to really work with the field, to develop standards, and I think what they did was really good work.”

However, Ryan said she has concerns about how PREA may be implemented in some jurisdictions.

“I’m concerned about two sets of things,” she said. “One is that governors really don’t have this on their radar screens … the second set of concerns is the Justice Department’s implementation, oversight and enforcement of this law.”

While Ryan praised the Obama administration for pressing forward with PREA, she said that she does not believe the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) should be in charge of handling enforcement.

“If you were to call over there right now and ask how many states were in compliance with PREA, they couldn’t tell you,” Ryan said. “They can’t tell you, because they don’t know themselves.”

A much “higher” agency, she said, should be tasked with PREA enforcement instead.

“The proactive work with governors and other officials in the states has been lacking,“ she said. “I think there should be a special unit created within the [U.S.] attorney general’s office that includes experts from the Civil Rights division and other juvenile criminal experts to ensure and actually proactively work with states on enforcement.”

[module align=”right” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]“If you were to ask most jailors, sheriffs and corrections officials in the adult system, they would say, ‘yeah, I don’t want kids in this facility.’”[/module]The Youthful Inmate Standard, Ryan said, was an admirable attempt by the DOJ to ensure the protection of juveniles held in adult facilities, but she questions whether some facilities have enough staffers to supervise juveniles among adult general populations. And while Ryan believes that the Standard has good intentions, she believes the best way to prevent juveniles from being assaulted by adult inmates is to keep them out of adult facilities altogether.

“A lot of the correctional detention experts in the field believe the way to comply is to not have kids in those facilities at all,” she said. “If you were to ask most jailors, sheriffs and corrections officials in the adult system, they would say, ‘yeah, I don’t want kids in this facility.’”

Ryan praised Colorado for recently enacting legislation that bars juveniles from being held in pre-trial detention at adult facilities. Previously, states such as Ohio and Virginia had also passed bills barring the placement of juveniles in adult facilities while awaiting trial. Ultimately, Ryan said she hopes PREA enforcement, in particular the Youthful Inmate Standard, may encourage more states to pass legislation keeping juveniles out of jails and prisons housing adult inmates.

“A number of states have moved in this direction, not just removing them from adult facilities, but removing them from prosecution, automatically,” she said. “We think that is a positive step forward, and that it’s very consistent with what juvenile justice experts would say about this.”

Map showing the age of jurisdiction (age at which a youth can be tried as an adult) in all states. (Click image to see larger)
Map showing the age of jurisdiction (age at which a youth can be tried as an adult) in all states. (Click image to see larger)

Naoka Carey, executive director of the Boston-based Citizens for Juvenile Justice, also said that PREA enforcement might serve as a catalyst for future state-level policy changes.

“Based on the research that we’ve done and the numbers that we have, we believe that there are probably a few hundred 17-year-olds who are held in adult facilities, over the course of the year in Massachusetts,” Carey said. Under current Massachusetts law, 17-year-olds charged with offenses are placed under the jurisdiction of criminal courts. Carey believes that PREA could provide a segue for the state to raise the age of criminality, and put young offenders under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts instead.

“We’re in the process, essentially, of changing our law,” Carey said. “And by changing our law, we will allow the 17-year-olds to come out of the adult system, and that would alleviate the Youthful Inmate issue.”

PREA, she said, adds a sense of urgency to a statewide movement to raise the age of criminality. “There are both the detention facilities, such as the court-holding facilities, and the police lock-ups that are affected, and there are the counties, the correctional facilities, that are affected,” Carey said. “So there’s a number of different players impacted by PREA.”

[module align=”right” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]“We don’t want people raped or assaulted or harmed in our facilities, and our people who run our facilities, I think, take that pretty seriously.”[/module]While Carey believes loss of federal funding may provide an incentive for some jurisdictions to comply with PREA, she also believes the potential for civil liabilities — stemming from facilities that fail to meet minimum standards of care — could goad some states into fully adhering to standards.

“Certainly, I think that here in Massachusetts, there’s also the moral incentive,” she added. “We don’t want people raped or assaulted or harmed in our facilities, and our people who run our facilities, I think, take that pretty seriously.”

Additional incentives for meeting PREA standards, Carey said, may further increase the likelihood that jurisdictions will meet compliance. These incentives, she said, do not necessarily have to be punitive.

“You could remove eligibility for future grants, which I think is still potentially a possibility,” she said. “The more things we do to both underscore the importance of these provisions and to create sort-of incentives and support to make sure they happen, the better.”


OP-ED: Everyday Assaults of Young Offenders in Adult Prisons

David_ChuraThe panel, sponsored by Boston College, was titled “Youth in Prison: The Reality of the System.” I was there to share my experiences as a teacher who worked with teenagers, some as young as fifteen, serving time in an adult county jail. I was scheduled to speak after T.J.Parsell who, when he was seventeen, served several years in an adult prison and was raped by inmates a number of times. He survived that horrific time and now as an adult shares his experiences to advocate for changes in the way the criminal justice system treats minors.

As T.J. recounted the sexual assaults he lived through I kept wondering what I could add. His experiences were so shocking, so deplorable that I wondered what more could be said.

[module align=”right” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]Yet all teenagers in adult prison live with an endless series of violations on a daily basis, violations that I could only think to describe as “everyday rapes.”[/module]However, as I listened, I realized there was a lot I could add. According to the Campaign for Youth Justice, inmates under eighteen make up only one percent of the prison population yet are victims in 21 percent of prison rapes. Although those statistics are high, not all young offenders are subjected to the sexual abuse that T.J. went through and that many other kids continue to endure. Yet all teenagers in adult prison live with an endless series of violations on a daily basis, violations that I could only think to describe as “everyday rapes.” I saw that my contribution to the panel was to be a witness to those everyday degradations, assaults and violations that I learned about over the ten years that I taught in prison.

There was the everyday rape of random body searches—on the block, coming back from court, before seeing family on a visit. As Marcus, a seventeen-year-old who never shied away from speaking his mind, put it, “Being searched by police makes you feel dirty. They make you strip down, bend over, and…you know. They call it cavity search. I call it rape.”

My students lived with the everyday violation of never having any privacy when they showered, used the toilet, “went to New York” (one of their many jailhouse slang phrases for masturbating). All teenagers, whoever and wherever they are, work hard to hide their vulnerabilities especially when it comes to their bodies. In prison those vulnerabilities are even more pronounced and covered up by tough guy bravado because these boys know that their bodies—along with so much more—are no longer their own. As they put it, they were “state’s property.”

There was the everyday abuse of having their cells sacked by the emergency response team (ERT) on one of their random searches. I understood the need for such surprise searches. Even my students did, although they were loath to admit it. But none of us understood why a team of men in SWAT uniforms had to scream at you, throw you out of your bed, flip your mattress onto the floor, toss around the few clothes you had, then dump in a trash barrel family photos, letters — even school books that you never saw again — only to be threatened as the ERT left your cell, “We’ll get you next time.”

[module align=”right” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]And…the everyday assault of being thrown into solitary confinement because you finally couldn’t hold in your rage anymore at such arbitrary, senseless humiliation.[/module]And “next time” might mean the everyday assault of being thrown into solitary confinement because you finally couldn’t hold in your rage anymore at such arbitrary, senseless humiliation and started to mouth off the way only angry, hurt teenage boys can. There, in total isolation, was the endless everyday rape of losing contact with humanity until you lost contact with your own humanity and found yourself participating in your own everyday rape—not showering or brushing your teeth for weeks; sleeping twelve, fifteen hours a day; and when you were awake, screaming, shouting, howling just to let the world—and yourself—know that you’re still there (sort of), doing anything to fight off that final everyday rape of extinction, of disappearing.

Even if a kid can hold it all in, follow the rules, keep his head down, there was the everyday indignity of eating food that poisoned a growing body; of living in an overcrowded, noisy and smelly block, with the constant threat of violence, intimidation and extortion; of being forced to pay extortionist prices for food sold in the prison commissary; of not getting decent health care, or any health care at all, because the gold standard was to save the county money.

The “reality of the system” is a brutal one. The Federal government has finally acknowledged that young offenders must be protected from prison sexual violence. The “Youthful Inmate Standard” regulations established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act require all prisons, jails, lock ups, and detention facilities to provide “sight and sound separation between youth and adults while restricting the use of solitary confinement and isolation practices.”

But these regulations are only a first step in solving how young people are treated in the criminal justice system. If we really want to protect them from the full assault of prison culture—the everyday rapes that have devastating effects long into adulthood—then we must get these children out of the penal system altogether, a system that was never intended to handle young offenders, and place them in environments that are designed to rebuild and to create new lives.

In Prison, A Boy’s Horrible Life

John LashRape is not sex. No matter how superficially similar the acts might seem, they are fundamentally different. Most reasonable people would agree, and in our society rape is considered a crime.

There is one place where things are different though: prison. Somehow, at least to many people, rapes that take place in that context are somehow different. They are seen as a natural consequence of being in prison, and thus somehow less serious than rapes that happen in other places. Some people even believe the victims deserve to be raped.

Despite the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 and its bipartisan support, public interest and political will to bring about change have remained fairly low. Prison rape is just not an issue that invites much concern. Not to say that nothing has changed, but a lot more needs to be done.

T.J. Parsell has an idea about how that might happen. Parsell, himself a victim of multiple rapes and exploitation at age 17, has taken his critically acclaimed book, Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison, and begun the task of creating a feature length motion picture out of the story.

The short film he shot during his first year in the NYU Graduate Film School can be seen here. The horror of being thrown into a world that no one should have to live in, especially a 17-year-old, is contrasted with the mundane reality of how easily such young people are cast aside to fend for themselves.

Now in his third year at the school Parcell is working to craft a movie that tells the fuller story, not only of exploitation and violence, but of survival as well. The longer film he hopes to create has the potential to reach a much larger audience, and to put a human face on a story that remains all too common.

Parcell is by all measures a successful man. He has had a thriving business career. He has worked at the highest levels of policy development, participating in negotiations with state agencies to craft survey tools in support of PREA. He has used his own story to awaken people around the country to the realities that prisoners, including juveniles, face on a daily basis. Now he has turned his talents to film making.

Parcell told me that some of his film had been shot in the very prison where he had been raped, and I was curious about how it was for him to return there after so many years. He told me he had operated the levers that controlled the cell doors, standing in the control booth, hearing and feeling the shudder that runs up and down the cell block when the doors open and close.

What was it like? I asked. “John, it was empowering,” he told me. Here, in the spot where he had been subjected to so much suffering and powerlessness, he was in charge. Accompanied by a film crew, and with his camera, he was pointing a “giant lens” into the darkness, a darkness he has worked to reveal for many years.

I hope his plan works, and that his vision is realized in this movie.

Check out his page on kickstarter to learn more about Parcell’s life and work, and most importantly to contribute to his project. This is not a movie Hollywood would typically make, but it is a story we need to see, hear and feel.

Policy Experts Address the Challenges Facing LGBT Youth in Lockup

OJJDP Webinar examines difficulties in providing adequate services to detained LGBT populations

Why are we focused on LGBTQI youth all of a sudden?” said Mykel Selph, director of the Office of Girls & Gender at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) in Illinois.

The DePaul University adjunct professor answered her own inquiry by bringing up findings from a 2010 report that estimates that approximately 15 percent of incarcerated youth self-identify as LGBT and/or gender nonconforming. According to Selph, that means that as many as 40 juveniles in Cook County’s JTDC right now are part of a detained population she believes are often “largely invisible” in the eyes of most policymakers.

Selph was one of three speakers presenting information at Tuesday’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Webinar, titled Understanding the Importance of Implementing an Effective Justice System Response for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) Youth in Custody. The presentation, hosted by the National Training & Technical Assistance Center, is the third Webinar in the “Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges Faced by LGBTQI Youth” series. Earlier installments in the series have examined topics such as improving the treatment of LGBTQI youth in schools and communities and the role of family in promoting the well-being of at-risk juveniles.

The most-recent Webinar examined the needs of LGBT youth in custody, as well as the impact of new United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) regulations that call for specific protections for detained LGBTQI juveniles.

Selph said that LGBT youths were arrested for prostitution, running away from home or other placements and outstanding warrants at disproportionate rates compared to the general youth population. She also noted that they were at far greater risk for bullying, suicide, substance abuse and sexual transmitted infections (STIs). Additional issues, such as legal or educational concerns, she said, often compound LGBTQI identity.

“We can’t ignore it and we can’t put it aside,” Selph said. “We want to ensure the safety for all youth.”

Selph said emotional safety is often implied, but not necessarily focused on, when addressing LGBT youth in detention facilities. She said that addressing such emotional concerns, particularly for “closeted” youth, were “of the utmost importance, because we don’t know who they are.”

Four years ago, Selph said that her facility enacted a series of new policies and programs that directly addressed the needs of detained LGBT youth. “In 2008, the JTDC began a large reorganization effort under the leadership of transitional administrator Earl Dunlap,” she said.

These policy changes addressed staff shortages, improved and increased mental health and medical care services and introduced annual review processes, as well as developed leadership training programs for management staff and a six-week pre-service training program for incoming staffers. Additional relationships with community agencies were also created, she said, to help provide programming for both detained youth and juveniles on the verge of re-entry.

Selph said that heterosexism and homophobia are commonplace in juvenile detention centers. “One way to address it is through polices,” she said, suggesting that facilities adopt gender neutral clothing, ensure the privacy of detainees while showering and discuss the use of formal names and pronouns for residents.

She advised facility operators to “eliminate” assumptions about gender and sexuality among youth in custody. Selph said that expectations and consequences should be equal for LGBT youth and heterosexual youth alike, while specific programming should address the needs and concerns for LGBTQI populations. By doing so, she said the “trauma LGBTQI youth face in detention” may be lessened or even completely remedied.

Caleb Asbridge, Juvenile Services senior associate at the Moss Group, Inc., said that facility operators needed to take legal rights, facility culture, and policy and operational issues into account when assessing the needs of LGBTQI youth in custody. In addition to safety, security and medical protections, Asbridge advised facility managers to evaluate the “norms and informal procedures” of the facility, as well as note the “level of support for non-traditional sexual orientation and gender identity expression” among staffers.

He advised that facilities develop specific policies for LGBT youth regarding showering, searches and clothing and grooming. Asbridge said that LGBT identities can often complicate things like group management, recreational outlets and transportation in a detention facility. Additional cultural conflicts, he said, means that special precautions must be taken regarding things like intake screenings and information management for LGBT detainees.

LGBT identities, he said, have an especially important context regarding medical and mental health services. Many times, Asbridge said that facility managers mislabel transgender detainees as youth with gender identity disorder, and he notes that most facilities have no guidelines in place to address the needs of youth undergoing hormone therapy treatment. He suggests that facilities offer youth access to family education and outreach resources, as well as reunification and reintegration plans. It’s the facility’s duty, he said, to ensure that LGBT youth return to safe homes and have access to adequate post-release support services.

OJJDP Compliance Monitoring Coordinator Elissa Rumsey spoke about the recently enacted Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a piece of legislation passed in 2003 that wasn’t officially ruled effective by the USDOJ until earlier this week. PREA established four sets of standards applicable in all adult and juvenile detention facilities in the U.S., with specific requirements in place to address the needs of LGBTI youth.

The new guidelines, she said, create standardized definitions of terms like “gender nonconforming” and “intersex” and places greater restrictions on cross-gender searches and examinations.

“This standard requires that facilities shall not search or physically examine a transgender or intersex resident for the sole purpose of determining the resident’s genital status,” Rumsey said. Under the new guidelines, conversations with detainees, medical records, and if needed, medical examinations conducted in private by medical practitioners will be used to determine the proper identifications for residents.

Regarding staff training and education, Rumsey said the new guidelines will teach security personnel how to conduct cross-gender pat-downs and searches of transgender and intersex juveniles in a “professional and respectful manner, and in the least intrusive manner possible.” Additional employee training will be required for employees who may have contact with residents, including training in how to respond to signs of threatened and actual sexual abuse and how to distinguish between consensual sexual contact and sexual abuse between residents.

Rumsey said the guidelines also change how facilities screen for risk of sexual victimization and abusiveness and whether or not specific LGBTI residents should be isolated from the general population – a decision that she said should be approached using “extreme caution” by facility managers.

Staff must now be trained in obtaining information from residents about prior sexual abuse histories, she said. Rumsey advised that staffers take a number of factors into consideration — including emotional and cognitive development and the resident’s own “perception of vulnerability” — into consideration when self-identifying LGBTI juveniles are being processed.

Rusmsey said that the guidelines prohibit the placing of LGBTQI residents in particular housing, beds or units based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even so, she noted that developing procedures for placement of transgender or intersex residents may prove difficult for staffers.

“In deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex resident to a facility for male or female residents, and in making other housing and programming assignments,“ she said, “the agency shall consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the resident’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems.”