PREA Standard 115.401(k) mandates that auditors “interview a representative sample of . . . staff, supervisors, and administrators.” Although the Standards do not explicitly require privacy during staff interviews, it is critical that auditors are able to provide a safe space where staff can freely discuss their experiences at the facility with sensitive issues related sexual safety.
Supervisory and administrative staff, because of their positions of authority and access to private locations such as secure offices, are typically more likely to be able to speak privately and freely to auditors than non-supervisory and non-administrative staff. As a result, DOJ-certified PREA auditors who are conducting facility-level audits, are permitted to conduct virtual interviews, including by both phone and video, of supervisors and administrators, as well as certain specialized staff explicitly named in the Handbook, including:
- Agency head or designee
- Warden/facility director/superintendent or designee
- PREA coordinator
- PREA compliance manager
- Agency contract administrator
- Intermediate or higher level facility staff responsible for conducting and documenting unannounced rounds to identify and deter staff sexual abuse and sexual harassment
- Supervisory-level education and program staff who work with youthful inmates, if any
- Supervisory-level medical and mental health staff
- Supervisory-level non-medical staff involved in cross-gender strip or visual searches
- Administrative (human resources) staff
- Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) staff
- Volunteers and supervisory-level contractors who have contact with inmates
- Investigative staff
- Supervisory-level staff who are involved in screening for risk of victimization and abusiveness
- Supervisory-level staff who supervise inmates in segregated housing
- Staff on the sexual abuse incident review team
- Designated staff member charged with monitoring retaliation
- Supervisory-level first responders, both security and non-security staff
- Supervisory-level intake staff
Auditors are not permitted to conduct non-supervisory and non-administrative staff interviews remotely, either by phone or by video, as these staff may be less able to speak privately and freely to auditors than supervisory and administrative staff.
Given the nature of agency-level audits, the guidance regarding conducting supervisory and/or administrative interviews remotely differs slightly from the guidance provided for auditors conducting facility-level audits. Auditors who are conducting an agency audit may interview some agency-level staff in advance of the onsite portion of the audit (e.g., to accommodate difficult schedules); however, the expectation is that the majority of agency-level staff interviews must be conducted in person. The agency should work with the auditor to schedule the audit at a time when relevant staff will be available for in-person interviews.
To make accurate compliance determinations, auditors should ensure that all staff are able to speak privately and freely, and confirm that no one pressured them to consent or refuse to be interviewed, or coached them on what to say during the interview.5
5 PREA Auditor Handbook, p.54.