Investigating Allegations of Staff Sexual Misconduct with Offenders

National Institute of Corrections
American University Washington College of Law
July 11 - 16, 2004

American Correctional Association
Policy on Sexual Assaults in Jails, Prisons,
Adult and Juvenile Facilities and Community Supervision
REVISED 5/28/04


Offender on offender sexual assault within jails, prisons, adult and juvenile detention and corrections facilities and community supervision involves actual and potential violations of the United States Constitution, as in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of sexual assault violates prisoners' rights under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Sexual assault of offenders on offenders who are housed in jails, prisons, adult and juvenile detention and corrections facilities, and on community supervision can contribute to the spread of infectious diseases within detention and correctional facilities and to the community upon release.

Vulnerable persons such as adult and juvenile offenders diagnosed with mental illnesses and young first-time offenders are at increased risk of sexual victimization while confined in detention and correctional facilities. Victims of sexual assault while confined in a prison, jail or juvenile detention or corrections facility suffer severe physical and psychological effects that may hinder their re-entry into the community and their ability to maintain stable employment.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 contains provisions to withhold portions of federal funds from correctional agencies if they fail to adopt standards to reduce sexual assault of offenders on offender and staff on offender.

Policy Statement:

The American Correctional Association considers sexual assault among adult and juvenile offenders confined in a jail, prison, adult or juvenile detention or corrections facility or on community supervision to be completely unacceptable and contrary to the mission of the corrections profession. The ACA recommends the following strategies to detention and corrections agencies:

  1. Establish, publicize and enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding all forms of sexual assault;
  2. Report all instances of sexual assault to the proper authorities for investigation and possible criminal action;
  3. Provide orientation and ongoing in-service training to staff, volunteers and contractors emphasizing the zero-tolerance policy and explaining state law, case law, administrative policies on the issue and the skills needed to effectively manage offenders;
  4. Develop supervision policies and procedures within detention and corrections facilities that minimize the potential for sexual assault to occur and policies that serve to protect the victim and prevent repeat occurrences;
  5. Establish investigative policies and procedures that include the processes for: reporting and investigating allegations involving sexual assault; and transferring and/or reassigning of the accused and, if needed, the complainant during an investigation;
  6. Establish mental health and medical protocols for treating the complainant, including initial screening and appropriate follow-up treatment;
  7. Maintain adequate and appropriate levels of staff to protect inmates against sexual assault;
  8. Establish a systematic process for the collection of data that document the number of sexual assault allegations, the nature of each allegation, and the resolution of the allegation;
  9. Develop effective correctional strategies such as meaningful programs that provide constructive activities and increase staff and inmate safety;
  10. Promote effective facility design that enables direct lines of sight within housing units;
  11. Foster an environment in which the reporting of alleged sexual assault behavior is encouraged and reports may be made without fear of reprisal;
  12. Provide training to offenders, inmates, and detainees on how to protect themselves against sexual assault;
  13. Establish relationships and protocols with outside law enforcement and health care agencies to facilitate the prosecution of assailants.

May 28, 2004

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