The Board's Elimination of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment in Correctional Facilities Minimum Standards are designed to detect, prevent and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment of persons incarcerated in jails and other facilities operated by the Department of Correction.
In April 2015, the New York City Public Advocate Letitia James petitioned the Board to adopt rules consistent with national standards that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had promulgated pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), 42 U.S.C. § 15601 (codified in 28 C.F.R. Part 115), et seq., in response to the epidemic of sexual violence in the nation's prisons and jails. The Board accepted the petition at its June 9, 2015 meeting, and after several months of fact-finding by the Board's ad hoc PREA Committee, developed proposed rules which incorporate in whole or in part many elements of the national standards.
This new chapter of the Board's Minimum Standards is the first the Board has issued since 1991. These new Standards went into effect on January 2, 2017. Information on the Board's rulemaking process, including public comments, is available on the Board's rulemaking web page.
The Board publishes a public compliance dashboard of DOC's and Correctional Health's sexual abuse and harassment Minimum Standards-related reporting.
The Board routinely discusses the Department's implementation and compliance of sexual abuse and harassment Standards at its public meetings and has welcomed public comments on the matter.
In 2018, the Board of Correction conducted an audit of the Department's investigation of sexual abuse or harassment allegations made by people in custody in New York City's jails. The Board reviewed 42 investigation reports related to incidents occurring between January 2010 and December 2017. The Audit Report uncovered significant weaknesses in the Department's process for reviewing sexual allegations of abuse and sexual harassment and offered recommendations for the Department to adopt in order to improve the quality and timeliness of investigations. The Department provided a response to the audit report.
In April 2015, the Department opened its Transgender Housing Unit (THU) for transgender women in the North Infirmary Command facility. The unit was later relocated to the Manhattan Detention Center in July 2015, before being moved to the Rosie M. Singler Center in July 31, 2018. In February 2018 the BOC published its assessment of the THU, seeking to inform ongoing discussions on the unit's operations, future plans for the unit, and implementation of Minimum Standards intended to ensure the safety of transgender people in custody.
Following the Department's failure to comply with Minimum Standards § 5-17 and § 5-18, the Board entered a Resolution with the Department of Correction in October 2017 requiring remedial actions to correct violations. On October 24, 2017, the Department produced a Corrective Action Plan detailing how it intends to comply with the Minimum Standards until it develops and implements an electronic screening tool to conduct the required assessments and make housing assignments and other determinations based on such assessments. As of February 1, 2018, the Electronic Screening Tool has been implemented department-wide.
At the Board's April 2018 public meeting, it was revealed that the Department was not completing investigations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment allegations within 90 days, as required by the Minimum Standards. In June 2018, the Department produced a Corrective Action Plan detailing its timeline for coming into compliance with the Minimum Standards. The Department expects to close all cases older than 90 days by February 2019.
In September 2018, the Board released an audit assessing the Department's investigation of sexual abuse or harassment allegations made by people in custody in New York City's jails. At the Board's October 2018 public meeting, the Board passed a Resolution requiring the Department to produce a Corrective Action Plan with a timeline for coming into compliance with the Minimum Standards, implementing the Board's audit recommendations, and implementing a computerized case management system for managing claims. In January 2019, the Department provided the Board with its PREA Investigations Corrective Action Plan.
Pursuant to the Board's Minimum Standards §5-40 "Data Collection and Review," the Department of Correction is required to produce a semiannual report evaluating sexual abuse and sexual harassment allegations made within the past six months, analyzes emerging trends and assesses the corrective action contemplated or initiated at the facility level and department-wide.
Pursuant to the Board's Minimum Standards §5-04 "Supervision and Monitoring," the Department was required to institute a one-year pilot program to install video surveillance cameras in Department vehicles used to transport people in custody and provide a report to the Board evaluating the results of the pilot , including any benefits or challenges associated with the installation of video surveillance in transport vehicles. On March 1, 2019, the Department provided the Board with a report assessing the pilot program.
Legal Aid Society Testimony re Strip Searches (April 29, 2019)
Brooklyn Defender Services (Ms. T) Testimony (April 23, 2019)
Lambda Legal Written Testimony (April 23, 2019)
Scott Moffat Testimony (April 23, 2019)
Sylvia Rivera Law Project Testimony (April 23, 2019)
New York County District Attorney Testimony (April 23, 2019)
Exodus Transitional Community Written Testimony (April 23, 2019)
NYC Jails Action Coalition Letter to Board (April 22, 2019)
Brooklyn Defender Services Letter to Board (April 22, 2019)
Legal Aid Society Letter to BOC re PREA Standards (Nov 28, 2018)