How is “housing unit” defined for the purposes of the PREA Standards?
The question has been raised in particular as it relates to facilities that have adjacent or interconnected units.
The most common concept of a housing unit is architectural. The generally agreed-upon definition is a space that is enclosed by physical barriers accessed through one or more doors of various types, including commercial-grade swing doors, steel sliding doors, interlocking sally port doors, etc. In addition to the primary entrance and exit, additional doors are often included to meet life safety codes. The unit contains sleeping space, sanitary facilities (including toilets, lavatories, and showers), and a dayroom or leisure space in differing configurations.
Many facilities are designed with modules or pods clustered around a control room. This multiple-pod design provides the facility with certain staff efficiencies and economies of scale. At the same time, the design affords the flexibility to separately house inmates of differing security levels, or who are grouped by some other operational or service scheme. Generally, the control room is enclosed by security glass, and in some cases, this allows inmates to see into neighboring pods. However, observation from one unit to another is usually limited by angled site lines. In some cases, the facility has prevented this entirely by installing one-way glass.
Both the architectural design and functional use of these multiple pods indicate that they are managed as distinct housing units.