The Jail Sexual Assault Prevention project tests the application of violence reduction strategies informed by situational crime prevention theory (SCP) within three jail facilities. The project collected and synthesized data from multiple sources in order to identify and implement interventions to address each facility’s unique safety challenges: an officer tour system in Site A, a recording camera system in Site B, and crisis intervention training at Site C. The report provides findings on the safety impacts and cost effectiveness of each intervention and discusses the utility of a SCP framework in addressing correctional violence.
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In recent years, the issue of sexual assault in American correctional facilities has
received increasing attention from correctional staff and administrators, criminal
justice officials, and policymakers. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
indicate that 3.1 percent of inmates in local jails reported being sexually victimized
by inmates or staff during a 12-month period (Beck et al. 2010). Given the traumatic
nature of sexual assault and its long-lasting negative effects, even low levels of
victimization are cause for serious concern. Furthermore, sexual assault is only one
manifestation of a larger problem of violence in correctional facilities, which includes
high rates of physical assault as well as self-inflicted violence such as suicide and
self-harm. One study found that 20 percent of inmates at 14 state prisons reported
being victims of physical violence perpetrated by another inmate during the previous
six months (Wolff et al. 2007). The most recent national figures indicate that the
suicide rate in local jails (42 suicides annually per 100,000 inmates) is more than four
times the rate among comparable nonincarcerated populations (Noonan 2010).
The problems of sexual assault, physical violence, and self-inflicted violence in
correctional facilities are not unconnected; indeed, the causes, dynamics, and
consequences of these three modes of violence are often related. Sexual assaults are
frequently accompanied by physical violence, and the traumatic psychological
consequences of sexual or extensive physical victimization can drive individuals
toward suicide and self-harm. There is significant overlap between the characteristics
that put inmates at risk for sexual victimization, physical victimization, and suicide
and self-harm. Perhaps most importantly, similar situational and environmental
factors, such as overcrowding, inadequate supervision, and inmate access to weapons,
can facilitate all three types of violence. The good news is that the situational and
environmental factors that create opportunities for violence are, in many cases, within
the control of correctional administrators and staff. By identifying and addressing
these factors, administrators can reduce all types of violence in their facilities. This
report summarizes the experiences and results of three jail facilities that applied
situational crime prevention to reduce violence and acts of self-harm.
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