1a. Does the standard that requires the facility to enable inmates to shower, perform bodily functions, and change clothing without nonmedical staff of the opposite gender viewing their breasts, buttocks, or genitalia apply equally to viewing that is done remotely via recorded or live video camera feed?
1b. Does this standard apply to opposite-gender staff who may view inmates in their beds or cells either through direct viewing or remotely by video camera?
1c. If the cross-gender viewing prohibitions do apply to remote viewing and viewing inmates in their beds, please explain the effect, if any, on cross-gender staffing of dormitory settings and cross-gender viewing of video cameras in dormitory settings.
(The following response answers all three questions.)
Yes. The intent of PREA Standards 115.15, 115.115, 115.215, and 115.315 (limits to cross-gender viewing and searches), subsection (d) is to provide inmates with the ability to shower, use the toilet, and change their clothes without being viewed by nonmedical staff of the opposite gender. The standard also functions to ensure that inmates have the information they need in order to cover up when opposite-gender staff members are working in their housing areas. The exception for viewing incidental to routine cell checks acknowledges that opposite-gender staff will work in housing areas and may see an inmate naked in his/her cell while conducting routine cell checks, but this is paired with the requirement that opposite-gender staff announce their presence to enable inmates to cover up during those periods if they do not wish to be viewed. Therefore, to the extent that cameras are focused on an area in which inmates are likely to be undressed or toileting, such as showers, bathrooms, and individual cells, the cameras should only be monitored by officers or nonmedical administrators of the same gender as the inmates viewed through the camera.
Practically, most cameras in correctional facilities are focused on common areas, including dayrooms, hallways, recreation areas, etc. In dormitory units, cameras may be in the common area that includes inmate beds. Cameras are rarely located within shower or toilet areas. It is acknowledged that there is a diminished expectation of privacy in the open area of a dormitory setting or other common areas of correctional facilities. In addition, most facilities have rules prohibiting inmates from disrobing or being unclothed in common areas. If this is the case and these rules are enforced, cameras focused on common areas, including dormitory sleeping units, may be monitored by either gender.
Finally, in order to maintain the ability to conduct thorough and effective investigations and incident reviews involving sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and other misconduct, appropriately trained internal and external investigators, and senior facility and agency administrators are not prohibited by this rule from viewing any cross-gender recorded camera footage in conjunction with an investigation or incident review. Other staff are not prohibited from viewing cross-gender recorded camera footage, as long as the footage does not depict inmates showering, performing bodily functions, changing clothes, or in a state of undress of partial undress.
Revised March 17, 2016. Original posting date March 26, 2014.