Task Force applauds first-ever national standards to eliminate sexual abuse in prisons

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauds the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) release of the first-ever national standards to eliminate sexual abuse in prisons, jails and other detention settings, as required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. And also, the White House today issued a presidential memo announcing that immigration detention facilities will soon be required to issue similar regulations to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

The regulations establish several critical protections for inmates, and will have a particularly profound impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) detainees who remain extremely vulnerable in detention settings.

The standards, which the Task Force has advocated for, include specialized training for prison staff, and screenings in detention settings to help assess whether an inmate is at higher risk for being targeted for sexual abuse in prison because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Agencies must also train security staff on respectful searches of transgender inmates; transgender people will not be assigned to a male or female facility based solely on genital status, but rather on a case-by-case assessment of the inmate’s health and safety; and transgender inmates will be given the opportunity to shower separately from other inmates.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, through its New Beginning Initiative, has advocated for these humane standards. The Task Force has also been calling on federal officials to ensure that these protections apply to the hundreds of thousands of people — including many LGBT people  — housed in immigration detention facilities. The presidential memorandum ensures all federal agencies with detention facilities, including the Department of Homeland Security, will issue regulations to reduce the risk of sexual violence.

Statement by Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

Sexual violence is traumatizing and dehumanizing. No one — and I mean no one — should ever be subjected to this pain and indignity. People in detention settings are particularly vulnerable to this violence, which has been allowed to run rampant.

By adopting these national standards to prevent, detect and respond to prison rape, the federal government put its foot down and said ‘no more.’ LGBT people, often the targets of brutality in detention settings, stand much to gain. Lives are literally on the line, and these historic standards will help combat this terrible epidemic and lift our common humanity.

We applaud DOJ for issuing these standards and the White House for ensuring that similar requirements be issued for immigration detention facilities. The Task Force is dedicated to the rights of those who are unjustly incarcerated and to all inmates’ right to live free of sexual assault.

Injustice at Every Turn finds transgender people at risk in detention facilities

Injustice At Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, found that prison abuse was a serious, widespread problem for transgender inmates. The report found alarming rates of such abuse: 15 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people who had been to jail or prison reported being sexually assaulted by peers or staff. The rate of abuse was far higher for people of color: 34 percent of black respondents and 24 percent of Latino/as were sexually assaulted in jail/prison.

Additionally, 7 percent of transgender people report having been incarcerated simply because of their gender identity/expression, having committed no crime. For people of color, the rate was astonishingly high with 41 percent of black respondents and 21 percent of Latino/as reporting incarceration for being transgender or gender non-conforming. Whether incarcerated or not, 22 percent of respondents who interacted with police reported harassment by police.