Philly adopts federal standards for preventing prison sex assaults

Philly adopts federal standards for preventing prison sex assaults
Charles Mostoller

Mayor Michael Nutter and Prisons Commissioner Lou Giorla signed an executive order Monday adopting federal standards in training prisons workers on sexual assaults behind bars.

The executive order espouses standards implemented by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which Congress passed in 2003.

The purpose of the act was to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in federal, state, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.”

Now, LGBT training will be codified and made a permanent practice for every staff member within the city’s prisons. PREA is mandatory for all federal facilities. State facilities must implement PREA or lose a percentage of their federal funding. Municipalities are not required to implement PREA, but Nutter chose to do so anyway with Monday’s signing.

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“Studies have shown time and time again that the rates of victimization against LGBT people while in custody are as high as 12 times that of someone who does not identify as LGBT or is not perceived as LGBT,” said Nellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia’s Director of LGBT Affairs.

“It also highlights and recognizes the LGBT community in prisons as one of the most targeted and vulnerable communities to this type of violence.”

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A study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force revealed that 16 percent of transgender people and 47 percent of black transgender people have been incarcerated at some point in their lives. The survey also captured that 37 percent of transgender inmates reported harassment by prison staff themselves, with 44 to 56 percent of inmates of color having experienced the harassment.

Following this order, Giorla said, every staff member who interacts with inmates will now be trained on how to prevent sexual assaults.