DOJ-certified PREA auditors are not permitted to conduct the site review portion of the onsite audit remotely, as it does not comport with the requirements in the PREA Standards, PREA Auditor Handbook (Handbook), and Audit Instrument.
PREA Standard 115.401(h) states, “The auditor shall have access to, and shall observe, all areas of the audited facilities.” As described in the Handbook, in order to meet the requirements in this Standard, the site review portion of the onsite audit must include a thorough examination of the entire facility.1 The primary purpose of the onsite phase of the PREA audit is to assess, in person, the day-to-day practices used by facility staff. This review of day-to-day practices requires active engagement by the auditor with critical facility functions, such as observing intake and risk screening; listening for cross-gender announcements; testing the working conditions of telephones, kiosks, and other devices; accessing reporting entities; and discerning supervision practices.2
A remote site review would introduce significant barriers to meeting the requirements described above. Such barriers include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Ensuring the auditor has true, unfettered access to – and is able to observe all areas of – the audited facility.
- Unreliable or inadequate Wi-Fi coverage at the facility.
- Concerns regarding the privacy and security of videoconferencing platforms, particularly related to video streaming of housing units or other areas of the facility where inmates3 may be in a state of undress.
- The ability of auditors to objectively test and meaningfully engage with critical facility functions, such as testing the phone system to determine whether inmates can access the reporting hotline, or observing intake and screening protocols.
Because of these barriers, it is not feasible for an auditor to objectively assess and make compliance determinations of a facility’s practices without being physically onsite for the site review.
In addition, PREA Standard 115.401(e) provides that, “The agency shall bear the burden of demonstrating compliance with the standards.” If an auditor is unable to conduct a thorough in person examination of the facility, and day-to-day practices of facility staff, the agency will be unable to sufficiently bear the burden of demonstrating compliance with the Standards.
1 PREA Auditor Handbook, p.40.
2 PREA Auditor Handbook, p.40.
3 In this document, the term “inmate” is used generally to refer to inmates, residents, and detainees, except when discussing certain types of facilities or sets of Standards, in which case more specific terminology is used.