First New Chapter of the Minimum Standards in 25 Years Incorporates Most of the National PREA Standards
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 15, 2016
CONTACT: Bennett Stein, (212) 669-7992, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY – The New York City Board of Correction, an independent oversight Board for the City’s jail system, today voted to adopt final rules designed to detect, prevent, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment of persons incarcerated in jails and other facilities operated by the NYC Department of Correction (DOC). The adopted rules incorporate many elements of the Department of Justice’s Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, enacted in response to the epidemic of sexual violence in the nation’s prisons and jails. This new chapter of the Board’s Minimum Standards is the first it has issued since 1991. These new Standards will go into effect on January 2, 2017.
“Today’s rules state loud and clear that the City of New York will not tolerate sexual abuse of people in its jails. Incorporating the ideas and expertise of DOJ, our City government colleagues at DOC and NYC Health + Hospitals, and many community stakeholders, the Board’s new rules are a significant contribution toward safer and more humane jails,” said Board of Correction Executive Director Martha W. King. “After much deliberation and collaboration, the Board today passes rules tailored to the City’s jail system and infused with values underlying the City’s criminal justice reforms.” Stanley Brezenoff, Chair of the Board and Chair of the ad hoc Board committee that developed the regulations said, “The Board’s new Minimum Standards addressing sexual abuse and harassment in the jails are the result of City agencies working together to address an urgent and serious problem. The City has now set meaningful standards and action plans to address it.”
The new rules incorporate into local law the PREA standards in whole or in part, thus securing local oversight and enforcement. Moreover, the Board’s enactment of these rules renders the City a leader of the nationwide initiative end prison rape. The new rules include:
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James petitioned the Board to adopt rules consistent with the PREA Standards. In response, the Board accepted the petition and proposed rules in June 2016. The Board received written comments on the proposed rules from over 60 organizations and over 60 individuals, including Council Members Dromm and Garodnick. Over 30 people spoke at the July public hearing on the proposed rules. Thereafter, the Board reviewed all of the comments, made revisions, and published final Standards. The Board will hire a Project Director to lead the agency’s monitoring of the new rules.
“I am pleased that the Board of Correction has adopted our rules, because no individual should ever have to fear sexual assault,” said Public Advocate James.
Council Member Crowley, Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee said:
“The Board’s rules provide a new way forward for the City’s response to sexual abuse and harassment in the jails. The Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services is pleased to see the Board strengthen its oversight to address this very present problem on Rikers Island. I look forward to working with the Board to monitor compliance and ensure this rule goes far enough to address all issues of sexual violence.”
Council Member Daniel Garodnick said: “Transgender inmates experience some of the highest rates of sexual abuse and harassment out of all incarcerated populations. With these rules, The Board of Corrections is demonstrating a commitment to preserving transgender inmates’ safety and dignity. I applaud this long-overdue step forward. “
DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said: “The New York City Department of Correction has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and sexual harassment and is absolutely committed to achieving PREA compliance. The Board’s new Minimum Standards are in line with the Department’s 14-point anti-violence plan, and the Department’s work to implement PREA has already begun in force. We look forward to working with the Board on effective implementation of the Minimum Standards.”
Health and Hospitals Senior Vice President for Correctional Health Services Patsy Yang said: “The Board’s new Minimum Standards recognize both the immediate health and mental health needs of survivors of sexual abuse and the serious public health issue of sexual abuse and harassment in the City’s jails.”
"We applaud the Board of Correction in taking an important step to address sexual assault in city jails. Young people are at heightened risk of sexual assault in adult facilities and until NYS takes critical steps to cease incarcerating youth in adult jails, we urge the Board to exercise all measures to protect them. CDF-NY appreciates the Board's inclusion of new protections that will increase safety for transgender youth and young adults and urges strengthening protections to ensure no young person is ever made vulnerable to sexual assault while in DOC custody," said Naomi Post, Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund - New York. "We are encouraged by the Board’s investment in this rulemaking process and the potential to ensure protections against the types of assault that are commonly experienced by youth and young adults in custody and urge vigilant monitoring and public accountability."?
Veronica Vela, Interim Supervising Attorney at the Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project, said, “Our clients report a pervasive risk of sexual abuse in DOC custody yet their allegations have been dismissed out of hand as shown by the Board’s finding that the Department substantiated only 5 of 294 allegations of staff sexual abuse between 2013 and 2015. The Board’s new Rules take some important first steps to protect our clients from harm. While much more is needed, we support the Board’s efforts and encourage the Board to monitor the DOC closely and report publicly about its findings.”
The New York City Board of Correction (BOC) is a nine-person, non-judicial oversight board that regulates, monitors, and inspects the correctional facilities of the City. The Board of Correction carries out independent oversight and enacts regulations to support safer, fairer, smaller, and more humane NYC jails. It is one of the earliest independent oversight Boards of custodial and detention settings in the United States. More information on the Board of Correction can be found at www.nyc.gov/boc.