Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA)
Prevention Of Sexual Abuse Of Inmates
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Sexual abuse and sexual harassment violate Department rules and threaten security. All reports of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and retaliation against an inmate, parolee or staff member for reporting or taking part in an investigation of possible sexual abuse or harassment will be thoroughly investigated. Furthermore, DOCCS deals with any perpetrator of a sexual abuse incident, sexual harassment incident, act of staff voyeurism or relation through discipline and, where there is evidence that a crime was committed, through prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Any employee who receives a report of sexual abuse must immediately notify his or her supervisor and either the facility Watch Commander or Community Supervision Regional Director to ensure timely notification of the Office of Special Investigations, previously known as the Department’s Office of the Inspector General. In addition, all of our employees are under a duty to report any allegation, knowledge, suspicion, or information regarding any sexual abuse or related misconduct.
History of Combating Sexual Abuse
DOCCS played a key role in introducing legislation to make sexual conduct between an employee and an inmate under the Department’s custody a crime. Shortly after that law was enacted in 1996, the Department established a "Sex Crimes Unit" within the Office of Special Investigations, one of the first in the nation. These specialized investigators work closely with the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
The Department also worked with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, to develop "Avoiding Inappropriate Behavior Between Staff and Inmates," one of the first training programs in the nation addressing staff sexual misconduct. This training was first delivered to all of our employees beginning in 1998. In 2005, DOCCS introduced an additional training program for all of our employees on the "Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Inmates." These training programs were used for a number of years as a part of our curriculum for new employees and for periodic in service training.
Today, DOCCS is proud to be a leader in national efforts to improve correctional practices under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). As part of our continuing effort to enhance our policies to prevent the sexual abuse of inmates and parolees to provide for the care of victims of sexual abuse, the Department has adopted Directive 4027A and Directive 4028A , conducted employee training and issued an all employees memorandum summarizing the agency’s zero tolerance policy, and introduced a new "Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response" employee training in 2015. DOCCS has also undertaken efforts to better inform our population by producing educational materials. These materials are updated periodically to ensure that inmates and parolees are aware of the Department’s current policies. These materials include a comprehensive “What Inmates Need to Know” pamphlet and poster to encourage inmates and other offenders to report any issues involving sexual abuse. DOCCS contract providers distribute a similar orientation pamphlet to residents who are placed in Community-Based Residential Programs (CBRP) and Residential Stabilization Programs (RSP) as a condition of their release.
Most recently, DOCCS completed work on a pair of ground breaking comprehensive inmate educational films, Ending Sexual Abuse Behind the Walls: An Orientation,© addressing sexual safety in confinement. Using a PREA Demonstration Project Grant through the United States Bureau of Justice Assistance, DOCCS partnered with The Moss Group, LLC, and T.J. Parsell's Fish Films, LLC to develop two orientation films. These films represent a first in the nation approach to sexual safety education by letting current inmates tell new inmates what they wish they knew when they first started serving their sentences. These short films impart essential information about the Department's Zero Tolerance for sexual abuse, how to report, and what to expect when a report is made. However, they go beyond the usual PREA educational materials by allowing "old timers" to explain what they learned on their own. Click here to view the male video and the click here to view the female video.
DOCCS recognizes that showing a film, no matter how powerful it is, is not enough to properly address the issue of sexual victimization in custody. DOCCS is now working with Just Detention International (JDI) to develop a peer education curriculum that will go far beyond what is covered in the films. Beginning in the fall of 2015, the Ending Sexual Abuse Behind the Walls films will be integrated into Transitional Services Phase One where they will be used by Inmate Program Associates to introduce a training module addressing PREA and sexual safety in confinement.
Report Sexual Abuse
DOCCS investigates all reports of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and retaliation in connection with a sexual abuse or harassment matter. All reports, including third-party and anonymous reports are confidential and will be thoroughly investigated. As outlined in a letter of understanding , the Department’s investigators work collaboratively with the State Police in joint administrative and criminal investigations in all cases involving potentially criminal conduct. Inmates are encouraged to report incidents to facility staff to permit the most expeditious response. They may also report by writing to the Superintendent, a member of the facility Executive Team, other facility staff, Central Office, the Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) (previously known as the Department’s Office of the Inspector General), or to the Department’s PREA Coordinator.
Third-party reports on behalf of an inmate can be initiated by contacting the facility Superintendent or, if after hours, the Watch Commander. You may also report a sexual abuse incident involving an inmate, a parolee or another offender by writing to the Department’s Office of Special Investigations at:
Office of Special Investigations
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
State Office Campus, Building 2
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12226-2050
You may report a sexual abuse incident by e-mail to SpecialInvestigations@doccs.ny.gov .
The United States Department of Justice adopted the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape (the PREA Standards) effective August 20, 2012. DOCCS has been actively involved in trainings conducted by the PREA Resource Center under a cooperative agreement with the Department of Justice, and a number of partners such as the National Institute of Corrections, Just Detention International and The Moss Group, Inc. Today, DOCCS is continuing to work on refining our policies and education programs to fully comply with the Standards, to work toward the elimination of custodial sexual abuse in our facilities, and to get incarcerated victims of sexual abuse the help they need.
In April 2013, DOCCS created an Associate Commissioner position responsible for developing and implementing policy, and overseeing DOCCS’ compliance with the PREA Standards. Jason Effman, who was named PREA Coordinator in March 2012, has been actively involved in national efforts to develop and implement the PREA Standards. He serves as a member of the DOCCS’ Executive Team, and leads a team of professionals, both in Central Office and the facilities, dedicated to preventing and responding to incidents of sexual abuse. The Department’s PREA-related activities will fall under Commissioner Effman and the Sexual Abuse Prevention & Education Office.
Click here to view the Department’s annual report on sexual victimization. For more information on the Prison Rape Elimination Act and national efforts to end custodial sexual violence, you can visit: