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Concluding Observations, CAT/C/USA/CO/3-5, 20 November 2014: United States of America

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

Protection of prisoners against violence, including sexual assault

21. The Committee is seriously concerned at the widespread prevalence of sexual violence, including rape, in prisons, jails and other places of detention, by staff and other inmates. It also notes with concern the disproportionally high rate of sexual violence faced by children in adult facilities, as well as the even higher rate of sexual victimization reported by inmates with a history of mental health problems and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. While welcoming the adoption, in 2012, of the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the Committee is concerned by reports that their implementation at the state level continues to be a substantial challenge. In that context, the Committee notes with concern that six states have not certified that they are in full compliance with the standards under the Act, and several agencies operating federal confinement facilities are still in the process of issuing their own regulations for the implementation of the Act.

The Committee recommends that the State party increase its efforts to prevent and combat violence in prisons and places of detention, including sexual violence by law enforcement and penitentiary personnel and other inmates. In particular, the State party should:

(a) Ensure that the standards pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act or similar standards are adopted and implemented by all states, and that all federal agencies and departments operating confinement facilities propose and publish regulations that apply the standards of the Act in all detention facilities under their jurisdiction;

(b) Promote effective and independent mechanisms for receiving and handling complaints of prison violence, including sexual violence;

(c) Ensure that all reports of prison violence, including sexual violence, are investigated promptly and impartially, and that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted;

(d) Ensure the use of same-sex guards in contexts where the detainee is vulnerable to attack, in scenarios that involve close personal contact or the privacy of the detainee;

(e) Provide specialized training to prison staff on prevention of sexual violence;

(g) (sic) Develop strategies for reducing violence among inmates. Monitor and document incidents of violence in prisons with a view to revealing the root causes and designing appropriate prevention strategies;

(h) Authorize monitoring activities by non-governmental organizations;

(i) Amend sections 1997 e (a) and (e) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act;

Excessive use of force and police brutality

26. The Committee is concerned about the numerous reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBTI individuals. … In that regard, the Committee notes the alleged difficulties of holding police officers and their employers accountable for abuses. While noting the information provided by the State party’s delegation that over the past five years, 20 investigations had been opened into allegations of systematic police department violations, and over 330 police officers had been criminally prosecuted, the Committee regrets that there is a lack of statistical data on allegations of police brutality, as well as a lack of information on the results of the investigations undertaken in respect of those allegations.

The State party should:

(a) Ensure that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent mechanism with no institutional or hierarchical connection between the investigators and the alleged perpetrators;

(b) Prosecute persons suspected of torture or ill-treatment and, if found guilty, ensure that they are punished according to the gravity of their acts;

(c) Provide effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims;

Link to full text of the report: Concluding Observations-CAT-USA-2014-eng