February 7, 2013

What is adequate staffing?


The PREA standards do not mandate specific minimum staffing ratios for adult and non-secure juvenile settings. Instead, the PREA rule provides guidance on how agencies can determine adequate staffing levels to protect inmates, residents, and detainees from sexual abuse. For prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities, the standards require that agencies consider 1) generally accepted practices; 2) judicial findings of inadequacy; 3) findings of inadequacy from federal investigative agencies; 4) findings of inadequacy from internal or external oversight bodies; 5) all components of the facility’s physical plant (including “blind spots,” or areas where staff or residents may be isolated); 6) composition of the inmate/resident population; 7) number and placement of supervisory staff; 8) number and types of programs occurring on a particular shift; 9) applicable state or local laws, regulations, or standards; 10) prevalence of substantiated and unsubstantiated incidents of sexual abuse; and 11) any other relevant factors. 28 C.F.R. §§ 115.13(a) and 115.313(a). The lockup and community confinement standards provide a similar, albeit abbreviated, list of factors.

In secure juvenile facilities, DOJ defined minimum staffing ratios under PREA Standard 115.313 (c) as 1:8 during resident waking hours and 1:16 during resident sleeping hours. Agencies may depart from these minimum ratios during limited and discrete exigent circumstances, which are fully documented for audit purposes. Id. DOJ noted that many states and localities, as a matter of law or policy, already have minimum staffing ratios in juvenile settings; some state and local facilities exceed the minimum staffing ratios proscribed in the PREA standards and are strongly encouraged to maintain those ratios. In order to provide agencies with sufficient time to readjust staffing levels and, if necessary, request additional funding, the standard provides that any facility that is not already obligated by law, regulation, or judicial consent decree to maintain the required minimum staffing ratios has until October 1, 2017, to achieve compliance. Id.

Staffing Ratio