Video Monitoring is Part of New DoJ Effort to Reduce Prison Rapes

States that do not fully comply with the new standards risk losing DoJ grant funds
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The Department of Justice has issued a final rule adopting national standards designed to “prevent, detect and respond to prison rape,” and which lists video surveillance as a tool for combating sexual assaults at correctional facilities.

On June 20, 2012, the DoJ posted a Federal Register notice—National Standards To Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape; Final Rule—that requires “each prison, jail and juvenile facility to develop and document a staffing plan that provides for adequate levels of staffing, and, where applicable, video monitoring, to protect inmates against sexual abuse.”

The notice says, “In calculating adequate staffing levels and determining the need for video monitoring, facilities must consider several factors,” including:

  • Generally accepted detention and correctional practices
  • Any judicial findings of inadequacy
  • Any findings of inadequacy from federal investigative agencies
  • Any findings of inadequacy from internal or external oversight bodies
  • All components of the facility’s physical plant (including “blind spots” or areas where staff or inmates may be isolated)
  • The composition of the inmate population;
  • The number and placement of supervisory staff
  • Institution programs occurring on a particular shift
  • Any applicable state or local laws, regulations or standards
  • The prevalence of substantiated and unsubstantiated incidents of sexual abuse
  • Any other relevant factors

Prisons and jails must use “best efforts to comply with the staffing plan on a regular basis and are required to document and justify deviations from the staffing plan,” the notice says. In addition the standard requires all corrections facilities and related agencies to annually assess, determine and document for each facility whether adjustments are needed to the staffing levels established pursuant to this standard; to the prevailing staffing patterns; and the facility’s deployment of video monitoring systems and other monitoring technologies.

While the use of video monitoring systems are frequently mentioned as a method to reduce rapes and sexual assaults within correctional facilities, the standard does not discuss the types of video monitoring technologies available, or make any recommendations on which technologies should be used. Rather, the document focuses on policies that should be implemented by prisons, jails and detention facilities.

The new standards are effective Aug. 20, 2012, and states that do not fully comply with the new standards risk losing five percent of DoJ grant funds designated for correctional facilities, according to the notice.