Q.

What is required by the cross-gender announcement in Standard 115.15(d) (adult prisons and jails; and 115.315(d) (juvenile facilities with discrete housing units)?

A.

In adult prisons and jails, and in juvenile facilities with discrete housing units, “staff of the opposite gender” are required to “announce their presence when entering an inmate housing unit.” This is sometimes referred to as the “cover-up rule” and is intended to put inmates on notice when opposite-gender staff may be viewing them. The announcement is required any time an opposite-gender staff enters a housing unit; however, the Department has determined that the purpose of the Standard may be fully realized by requiring the announcement only when an opposite-gender staff enters a housing unit where there is not already another cross-gender staff present. Accordingly, the Department has determined that compliance with the Standard will be achieved when an announcement is made, as follows:

When the status quo of the gender-supervision on a housing unit changes from exclusively same gender, to mixed- or cross-gender supervision, the opposite-gender staff is required to verbally announce their arrival on the unit. The announcement is required for both custody and non-custody staff, and may include, for example, a clinician or case worker who spends time on the unit, or senior staff making supervisory rounds.

Note, a distinct buzzer, bell, or other noisemaking device may be substituted for a verbal announcement, so long as: (1) the buzzer emits a distinctive sound that is noticeably different from other common noisemakers; (2) inmates are adequately educated on the meaning of the buzzer sound and understand its purpose; and (3) the buzzer is not also used for other events at the facility. If used, such buzzers should be used in the identical manner that verbal announcements as required by the above guidance (e.g., when opposite- gender staff enter a housing unit).

The Department has received a number of inquiries about whether the following activities would constitute compliance:

Posting a notice on the housing unit informing the inmates that they may be subject to cross-gender supervision at any time.

Making a single announcement at the beginning of each shift indicating that inmates may be subject to cross-gender supervision at any time.

Making a single announcement at the beginning of a shift indicating that an opposite-gender staff is assigned to the unit for that particular shift.

Toggling a certain color light or flickering the lights in the unit as a signal to the inmates that opposite-gender staff may be on the unit.

The Department has determined that, while these other practices may be helpful supplements to the required verbal announcement, none of them is sufficient to comply with the Standard and compliance measure, as articulated above.

The Department also notes that there is no precise verbal language required by the cross-gender announcement Standard; only that the language put inmates or residents on sufficient notice that an opposite-gender staff member is entering the housing unit. Hence, such language as “man on the unit” or “Officer Smith on the unit” may both meet this requirement.

Consistent with Standard 115.16 and 115.316, the agency shall take appropriate steps to ensure that inmates with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from all aspects of the agency’s efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Accordingly, additional systems may be needed to supplement the verbal cross-gender announcement in units with inmates who are deaf or hard of hearing.

[1] In lockups and community confinement facilities, and in juvenile facilities that do not have discrete housing units, opposite-gender staff are only required to “announce their presence when entering an area where” detainees and residents “are likely to be showering, performing bodily functions, or changing clothing.” 28 C.F.R. §§ 115.115(c), 115.215(d), and 115.315(d).

Standard
Categories
Cross-Gender Supervision,
Cover-Up Rule