Is comparing the total number of security staff with the total number of residents in a secure juvenile facility an acceptable way to calculate whether the facility is complying with the minimum staffing ratios required by PREA Standard 115.313(c)?
No. Standard 115.313(c) states: “Each secure juvenile facility shall maintain staff ratios of a minimum of 1:8 during resident waking hours and 1:16 during resident sleeping hours, except during limited and discrete exigent circumstances, which shall be fully documented. Only security staff shall be included in these ratios. Any facility that, as of the date of publication of this final rule, is not already obligated by law, regulation, or judicial consent decree to maintain the staffing ratios set forth in this paragraph shall have until October 1, 2017, to achieve compliance.” For additional information regarding who may be counted as security staff, see this FAQ: www.prearesourcecenter.org/node/3254.
Because the minimum staffing ratios enumerated in Standard 115.313(c) apply to the supervision of every juvenile resident in a facility, compliance will depend on the location of each resident, or group of residents, and the location of security staff at any given time. In order to calculate whether a facility is complying with the required staffing ratios, it is necessary to:
- Determine how juvenile residents are housed and programmed within the facility;
- Examine how security staff members are deployed throughout the facility;
- Review historical juvenile resident placement and staffing deployment; and
- Observe actual supervision practices in the facility.
The following hypothetical example, focused on juvenile facility “Alpha,” illustrates why comparing the total number of security staff with the total number of residents in a secure facility is not an acceptable way to calculate whether a facility is complying with the minimum staffing ratios required by PREA Standard 115.313(c), and demonstrates how compliance with the required ratios depends on the location of residents and security staff in a facility at any given time.
Juvenile facility “Alpha” currently has 80 residents and 10 security staff on duty during non-sleeping hours.
- On Alpha facility’s housing unit A, there are currently 16 residents during non-sleeping hours, and there are two security staff posted on this unit actively supervising the 16 residents, creating a ratio of 1:8.
- On Alpha facility’s housing unit B, there are currently 14 residents during non-sleeping hours, and there are two security staff posted on this unit actively supervising the 14 residents, creating a ratio of 1:7.
- On Alpha facility’s housing unit C, there are currently 18 residents during non-sleeping hours, and there are two security staff posted on this unit actively supervising the 18 residents, creating a ratio of 1:9. For 30 minutes during each 8-hour shift during non-sleeping hours, a roaming security staff member enters housing unit C and actively supervises the 18 juveniles, along with the two security staff members who are already posted there. This briefly creates a ratio of 1:6.
Although juvenile facility Alpha has 80 residents and 10 security staff during non-sleeping hours, it is not in compliance with Standard 115.313(c) because of the staffing ratio on housing unit C during non-sleeping hours. Although the roaming security staff member briefly increases the ratio to 1:6 on unit C, this unit has a 1:9 ratio when the roaming staff is not present.
The hypothetical example above also illustrates that juvenile facilities which comply with the required staffing ratios for short periods of time are not in compliance with Standard 115.313(c). Compliance with this standard must be “institutionalized” throughout the facility over a sustained period of time. For more information regarding what institutionalized means, see this FAQ: www.prearesourcecenter.org/node/3217.
Security staff members supervising juvenile residents via remote video monitoring do not count in the minimum ratio requirements. Video monitoring and/or control room staff typically cannot hear residents, promptly respond to cries for help, are typically responsible for monitoring countless youth in multiple locations, and often have a myriad of other duties such as controlling movement and answering telephones. However, security staff members in security cages may count, if these staff are dedicated to supervising juvenile residents in a single unit, have a meaningful line of sight into the unit without the assistance of technology (e.g., video monitors), can hear the residents, and are able to respond immediately to any emergencies.
Relevant Definitions from the PREA Standards
Standard 115.5 defines “secure juvenile facility” as a facility “in which the movements and activities of individual residents may be restricted or subject to control through the use of physical barriers or intensive staff supervision. A facility that allows residents with access to the community to achieve treatment or correctional objectives, such as through educational or employment programs, typically will not be considered to be a secure juvenile facility.”
Standard 115.5 defines “security staff” as “employees primarily responsible for the supervision and control of… residents in housing units, recreational areas, dining areas, and other program areas of the facility.”
PREA Standard 115.5 defines “exigent circumstances” as meaning “any set of temporary or unforeseen circumstances that require immediate action in order to combat a threat to the security or institutional order of a facility.”