The Sex Crimes Division (SCD) specializes in the investigation of unauthorized relationships, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and related misconduct between incarcerated individuals or parolees and Departmental staff. The SCD also investigates incarcerated individual-on-incarcerated individual sexual abuse and sexual harassment. The SCD also coordinates the efforts of outside law enforcement and prosecutors in the development of cases for criminal prosecution. When appropriate, SCD staff will also investigate allegations of non-consensual or coercive sexual activity involving departmental staff against other staff members. Additionally, the Sex Crimes Division collaborates with others within the Department to ensure compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
To ensure meaningful implementation and compliance with the PREA, the SCD collaborates with the Sexual Abuse Prevention and Education Office (SAPEO) to assist with the PREA Compliance Site Assessments as well as the PREA Audits within the facilities. The collaboration between OSI and SAPEO ensures a comprehensive approach to the Department’s compliance with PREA. Further, employing a team approach demonstrates to the correctional facilities that the Department is not only committed to following PREA, but also keeping staff and incarcerated individuals safe.
The national PREA standards are intended to ensure an agency is effectively preventing, detecting, responding to, and monitoring allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment of persons in confinement facilities. The audits are intended to determine compliance with PREA standards and help agency and/or facility officials understand non-compliance findings and make corrections to reach compliance. PREA auditors are responsible for conducting independent, high-quality, objective, and comprehensive audits that hold corrections agencies and facilities accountable for keeping individuals in their custody and care safe from sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
In addition to the general training provided to all employees, PREA Standard 115.34, entitled “Specialized Training – Investigations,” requires that the agency shall ensure that, to the extent the agency itself conducts sexual abuse investigations, its investigators have received training in conducting such investigations in confinement settings. Specialized training shall include techniques for interviewing sexual abuse victims, proper use of Miranda and Garrity warnings, sexual abuse evidence collection in confinement settings, and the criteria and evidence required to substantiate a case for administrative action or prosecution referral. PREA further requires that the agency shall maintain documentation that agency investigators have completed the required specialized training in conducting sexual abuse investigations. Any State entity or Department of Justice component that investigates sexual abuse in confinement settings shall provide such training to its agents and investigators who conduct such investigations.
All new OSI Sex Crimes Division Investigators attend Basic Office of Special Investigations Investigator School which includes the following curricula: National Institute of Correction (NIC) PREA initial and advanced course on “Investigating Sexual Abuse in a Confinement Setting,” and the NIC training on communicating effectively and professionally with LGBTQIA offenders. OSI SCD’s training curriculum for PREA further includes an overview of the PREA law, state law, staff and incarcerated individuals sexual abuse, duty to report, evidence protocols, effective communication with special populations, privacy for interviews, techniques for interviewing victims, credibility assessment, criteria to determine substantiated, unfounded and unsubstantiated investigations, and Miranda and Garrity warnings, among other topics. Investigators also received the standard PREA training.
OSI investigators have repeatedly demonstrated that they are trained to ensure that every allegation of sexual abuse in a correctional facility is thoroughly and appropriately investigated by a highly skilled, qualified investigator, who has been trained to investigate sexual abuse allegations in confinement settings. This results in an increased confidence in the facility’s ability to respond to sexual abuse, which in turn leads to more reliable reporting of sexual abuse, and ultimately to the prevention of sexual abuse in a confinement setting.
With all of the specialized training, OSI’s Sex Crimes Division is the lead investigative body for sexual abuse investigations in New York State correctional facilities. OSI works cooperatively with the New York State Police (NYSP) and the relevant District Attorney’s Office. OSI, the NYSP, and the District Attorney’s Office exchange information and collaborate throughout the investigation. This team approach is essential for thorough investigations and successful prosecutions of the perpetrators.
Each year, PREA audits closely examine the investigative policies, training, and case files against these PREA standards. The PREA auditors also interview OSI SCD representatives as part of the audit. In each of the 14 PREA audits completed in 2022, three separate DOJ-Certified PREA auditors found that OSI not only met the PREA standards for criminal and administrative investigations and for specialized training in investigations, but substantially exceeded the minimum requirements of one or both of the standards. Auditors further found that OSI substantially exceeded the minimum requirements in 14 audits for 115.34-Specialized Training: Investigations and 7 audits for 115.71 - Criminal and Administrative Agency Investigation. Consistently, national auditors are impressed with high quality of OSI investigations, exceptional training, and thoroughness that goes into each case handled by OSI.