Sexual Assault in Correctional Facilities

Since the establishment of Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003 and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), the issue of sexual assault in correctional facilities (including prison, jail, juvenile detention, etc.) has been addressed with the goal in mind to reduce the rate of assaults, protect individuals at risk, and prevent it from happening in the first place. In our new Sexual Assault Second Edition, Volume 3, we have information that specifically tackles the issue of sexual assault in correctional facilities and suggests ways to promote safety, making reporting easier for victims.

This post is an adaption of text from Sexual Assault: Victimization Across the Lifespan, 2E, Vol. 3: Special Settings and Survivor Populations.

Changing attitudes: A common assumption of the public is that rape is inevitable within correctional facilities. By creating an environment that does not tolerate rape or sexual assault or give in to this assumption, action can be made to its prevention and reporting. Data collection, made available to the public, can also reduce that stigma, which would require audits by outside agencies.

Encouraging positive staff behavior: Changing public assumption starts with staff within the correctional facilities. Attitudes of the staff dictate behavior for all members within the facility. If staff members allow or participate in this behavior, it sends a negative message and hinders the progress of prevention. Attitudes of staff within the correctional facility must reflect and cater to an environment that condones acts of sexual assault and rape.

Maintaining policy: Policies are in place to ensure the safety of inmates in correctional settings, but they must be implemented to promote safety. This, in addition to attitudes by staff, will make victims more open and willing to report and reduce the rate of sexual assault within the facilities.

Assessing risk: Recognizing those who are more at-risk for assault can give them additional protection. This population includes individuals who are young, small in stature, homosexual or transgendered, persons with mental illness or intellectual disability, or individuals lacking experience in a correctional setting.

Our information is designed for professionals whose goal is to protect and help victims. Our book contains chapters that address other unique situations such as this one where sexual assault occurs.

If someone you know has experienced sexual assault, here are some ways that you can help them heal and make the experience less traumatic. If you are someone who is part of the process of helping victims of sexual assault, please consider our books or subscribe to our newsletter.


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