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PREA: Additional Comments Sought on Juvenile Staffing Ratios

May 30, 2012
Benjamin Chambers

juvenile-justice-reform_add-your-comment-boxEven though the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued its final standards for the Prison Rape Elimination Act, it is still seeking public comments on its requirements for appropriate juvenile-staff ratios in facilities where youth are locked up. 

Here's the background and procedure to follow, taken from the final PREA rule (with some reformatting for clarity):

Solicitation of Additional Comments Regarding the Juvenile Staffing Ratios Set Forth in § 115.313(c).
"While this final rule is effective on the date indicated herein, the Department believes that further discussion is warranted regarding the aspect of this standard that requires secure juvenile facilities to maintain minimum staffing ratios during resident waking and sleeping hours. The standard contained in the final rule requires, in pertinent part, that '[e]ach secure juvenile facility shall maintain staff ratios of a minimum of 1:8 during resident waking hours and 1:16 during resident sleeping hours, except during limited and discrete exigent circumstances, which shall be fully documented. Only security staff shall be included in these ratios.' § 115.313(c). Accordingly, the Department solicits additional comments limited to this issue.

"Commenters are encouraged to address:

"(1) whether the provision, as written, is appropriate;

"(2) whether the specific ratios enumerated in the provision are the appropriate minimum ratios, or whether the ratios should be higher or lower;

"(3) whether the provision appropriately allows an exception from the minimum ratios during 'limited and discrete exigent circumstances' (as 'exigent circumstances' is defined in § 115.5), or whether that exception should be broadened, limited, or otherwise revised;

"(4) whether certain categories of secure juvenile facilities should be exempt from the minimum ratio requirement or, conversely, whether certain categories of non-secure juvenile facilities should also be included in the minimum ratio requirement;

"(5) the extent to which the provision can be expected to be effective in combating sexual abuse;

"(6) the expected costs of the provision;

"(7) whether the required ratios may have negative unintended consequences or additional positive unintended benefits;

"(8) whether empirical studies exist on the relationship between staffing ratios and sexual abuse or other negative outcomes in juvenile facilities;1

"(9) whether specific objectively determined resident populations within a secure facility should be exempt from the minimum ratios;

"(10) whether additional categories of staff, beyond security staff, should be included in the minimum ratios;

"(11) whether the standard should exclude from the minimum ratio requirement facilities that meet a specified threshold of resident monitoring through video technology or other means, and, if so, what that threshold should include; and

"(12) whether the standard appropriately provides an effective date of October 1, 2017, for any facility not already obligated to maintain the staffing ratios."

Deadlines & Procedure for Submission of Comments
The deadline to submit comments, according to the document, is 60 days after publication of the PREA rules in The Federal Register, which was June 20, 2012.  Here's the text on how to submit comments, and when:

"DATES: This rule is effective [INSERT DATE 60 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER]. Comments on the juvenile staffing ratios set forth in § 115.313 must be submitted electronically or postmarked no later than 11:59 p.m. on [INSERT DATE 60 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER.]

"ADDRESSES: To ensure proper handling of solicited additional comments, please reference 'Docket No. OAG-131' on all written and electronic correspondence. Written comments being sent through regular or express mail should be sent to Robert Hinchman, Senior Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 4252, Washington, DC 20530. Comments may also be sent electronically through http://www.regulations.gov using the electronic comment form provided on that site. An electronic copy of this document is also available at the http://www.regulations.gov website. The Department will accept attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Adobe PDF, or Excel file formats only. The Department will not accept any file formats other than those specifically listed here.

"Please note that the Department is requesting that electronic comments be submitted
before midnight Eastern Time on the day the comment period closes because
http://www.regulations.gov terminates the public’s ability to submit comments at midnight
Eastern Time on the day the comment period closes. Commenters in time zones other than
Eastern Time may want to consider this so that their electronic comments are received. All comments sent through regular or express mail will be considered timely if postmarked on or before the day the comment period closes.

"FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Hinchman, Senior Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 4252, Washington, DC 20530; telephone: (202) 514-8059. This is not a toll-free number."

1While the Department has not identified studies that address the relationship between negative outcomes and specific staffing ratios, the Department has reviewed studies that address the relationship between negative outcomes and the quantity of staffing more generally. See New Amsterdam Consulting, Performance-based Standards for Youth Correction and Detention Facilities: 2011 Research Report (unpublished study; available in rulemaking docket); Aaron Kupchik and R. Bradley Snyder, The Impact of Juvenile Inmates’ Perceptions and Facility Characteristics on Victimization in Juvenile Correctional Facilities, 89 The Prison Journal 265 (2009), available at http://tpj.sagepub.com/content/89/3/265.

Photo: premasagar, under Creative Commons license.

 

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