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The Department of Homeland Security releases draft standards targeting sexual abuse in immigration facilities
By Just Detention International
Published: 01/21/2013

Incarceration Washington, D.C., The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made meaningful -- and long-awaited -- progress on ending the crisis of sexual abuse in its confinement facilities. In response to a directive from President Barack Obama, DHS released draft regulations that will apply to all of its immigration detention and holding facilities. The draft will soon be open for a 60-day public comment period.

Just Detention International (JDI) welcomes this draft, which is a vital step toward protecting the health and dignity of the nearly 400,000 immigration detainees held by DHS each year. Sexual abuse in detention is devastating to survivors, with physical and emotional effects that often last for years. Immigration detainees are especially vulnerable to this type of violence.

On May 17, 2012, the Department of Justice finalized its national standards to eliminate sexual violence in prisons, jails, police lock-ups, and youth facilities, as mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003. On the same day, President Obama released an executive memorandum stating that PREA applied to all other federal agencies with confinement facilities, and directed them to finalize their own PREA standards. To date, DHS is the only federal agency on track to fulfill that directive through the regulatory process.

“After years of pressure by JDI and others, DHS is poised to become a true partner in the movement to end sexual abuse in detention,” said Lovisa Stannow, JDI’s Executive Director. “Based on JDI’s initial review, DHS has proposed a broad, strong set of standards that represent a promising foundation for change.”

In the coming weeks, JDI will be leading a diverse coalition of advocacy organizations in preparing detailed public comments on the draft standards. JDI is hopeful that DHS will incorporate the views of advocates as it finalizes its standards. “All detainees have the right to be free from sexual violence, regardless of where they are being held,” said Stannow. “JDI welcomes the chance to work with DHS, and other advocates, to ensure that the final standards uphold that right.”


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