Corrections Based Sexual Assaults Cases – Legal Issues

Identifying the challenge

Prisons or corrections facilities in the United States are used for incarceration of offenders. Criminals with less serious offense may be sentenced in community corrections which are operated at different levels of security (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009). Over the recent past, the population of inmates in the United States community corrections has grown considerably indicating that the number of criminals with less serious offenses has been on the rise in recent years. As the federal and state governments strive to reduce the number of crime cases in the community by putting criminals in community corrections, these community corrections tend to put the lives of prisoners at risk demonstrated by the rising cases of corrections-based sexual assaults. Corrections-based sexual assault is a widespread problem in community corrections in the United States that is worth addressing (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009).

In 2005, a probation officer in Portland was convicted and sentenced to 80 years imprisonment for sexually abusing a teenage boy who was under his supervision between 1994 and 2002. A similar incident occurred in Concord in 2008 where a corrections officer was imprisoned for 20 years after sexually assaulting a female inmate under his supervision. Recent incidents of sexual assaults within community corrections in America have attracted the attention of researchers, public policy makers, and corrections professionals who have now come out to address the issue (Beck, 2012b).

In 2003, the United States Congress passed a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault in the correction facilities of America known as the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 aims at eliminating, reducing, and preventing all forms of sexual abuse by inmates and correctional staff in local, state, and federal prisons in the United States. However, the principles of Prison Rape Elimination Act policy have not been effectively incorporated into the community corrections setting leading to high cases of corrections-based sexual assault. According to Abner and Browning and Clark (2009), since then Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed, there has been a misunderstanding that it is only relevant in national prisons but not in community prisons. For this reason, a number of community prisons have not found it necessary to incorporate the principles of the Act into their systems (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009).

The problem of sexual assaults on community corrections should be solved due to a number of reasons. When the Prison Rape Elimination Act was being passed, the United States Congress pointed out that prison rape causes negative psychological impacts on the brutalized inmates, which increases their chances of committing more severe crimes when they are released. The psychological impacts faced by sexually assaulted inmates prevent them from integrating into the community upon their release from prison. When this problem is solved, incarcerated criminals will have a good opportunity to transition back into community life which may prevent recidivism (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009).

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