Standards to reduce rape in jails passed

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City Board of Correction voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with a set of proposed rules designed to reduce rape and sexual assault in jails.

The rules, based on the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, are intended to detect, prevent and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment of inmates at city jails.

The rules include clarifications on working with transgender inmates. They ban the practice of physically examining transgender or intersex inmates to determine their "genital status."

Kelsey De Avila, a jail services advocate with Brooklyn Defender Services, which provides legal representation for people who can't afford an attorney, said it's taken too long for the board to act. "The issues of sexual assault and sexual abuse cannot be ignored any longer," she said.

But the newest member of the nine-person Board of Correction, Gerard Bryant, questioned whether the elimination of rape in correctional institutions is even possible.

"You can tell staff until you're blue in the face: 'Don't have sex with inmates,' and it's still going to happen," said Bryant, a psychologist. "As long as we are going to have prisons, we are going to have sexual abuse in prisons. That's the reality."

Letitia James, New York City's public advocate who petitioned the board to adopt the new rules, said she was pleased with the board's vote and urged the panel to move quickly to put the rules into effect.

"Becoming incarcerated should not come with a fear of sexual assault, as it too often does in our city's jails," James said.

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