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Evaluation of a Situational Crime Prevention Approach in Three Jails: The Jail Sexual Assault Prevention Project

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Document date: July 29, 2011
Released online: September 12, 2011


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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Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice

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