The Department of Justice (DOJ) unveiled LGBT-inclusive regulations on Thursday in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA).
The new rules initiate the implementation of the PREA by setting up new national standards for eliminating sexual abuse in prisons, jails, and other detention facilities.
National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling told Metro Weekly the new regulations were "a really, really big fucking issue."
The regulations require security staff at detention facilities to be trained regarding LGBT and gender nonconforming inmates. Part of that training includes "conducting professional and respectful cross-gender pat-down searches and searches of transgender and intersex inmates." The new regulations completely prohibit physically examining a transgender or intersex inmate for to determine their genital status.
"It's not just about the misery that sexual assault causes, it's also about HIV transmission, it's also about good order in incarceration issues," Keisling added. "This is one of the most important things that we've gotten done in the LGBT community because these are really vulnerable people who are really getting messed up."
Housing inmates based solely on their genital status is also prohibited under the new regulations.
"Rather, the agency must consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems, giving serious consideration to the inmate’s own views regarding his or her own safety," a DOJ summary (PDF) explained. "In addition, transgender and intersex inmates must be given the opportunity to shower separately from other inmates."
Other new regulations require detention facilities to perform background checks on prospective employees to prevent hiring of sexual abusers, house juveniles separate from adult inmates, inform inmates of how to report sexual abuse, and provide access to victim advocates from rape crisis centers.
States that do not comply with the new rules are subject to a five percent reduction in federal funds. Detention facilities in the United States will be audited every three years to assess compliance.
“The standards we establish today reflect the fact that sexual assault crimes committed within our correctional facilities can have devastating consequences – for individual victims and for communities far beyond our jails and prisons,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “These standards are the result of a thoughtful and deliberative process – and represent a critical step forward in protecting the rights and safety of all Americans.”
[Man in prison via Shutterstock]