Corrections-Based Sexual Assaults Cases in the United States

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).

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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).

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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).

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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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Corrections-based sexual assaults should also be solved to prevent the significant public health risks which the problem brings to the community. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 2 percent of incarcerated inmates in the United States prisons are infected with HIV and are suffering from AIDS. Majority of these inmates are also suffering from other sexually transmitted diseases that are transmitted through rape. These diseases are spread among inmates and prison officials within the prison. Again, when many offenders return to the community, they tend to spread these infections to community members. It is therefore clear that inmates and prison staff are impacted internally by the problem of corrections-based sexual assault. Those who are affected externally by the problem include the government, policy makers, public health sector, researchers, and the community (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009).

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According to the National Inmate Survey of 2011, approximately 10 percent of juveniles held in state prisons in the United States reported that they have been sexually abused by their supervisors severally in the previous year (Beck, 2012a). Unfortunately, the number of inmates who give reports of sexual abuse by their supervisors have been in the rise in recent months, indicating that the problem of corrections-based sexual assault in the United States prisons has not been solved. The best case that can be used to prove that the problem has not been solved occurred at a youth detention center in Idaho in March 2015. In the case, five inmates from the detention center reported that they have been sexually abused by prison staff at the facility. Irrespective of whether the perpetrators are males or females, cases of sexual abuse in United States prisons are consistent across the board (Cohen, 2015).

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Internal and external stakeholders

The two internal stakeholders who have influenced the problem of corrections-based sexual assault in one way or another are the inmates and prison professionals. Some inmates who are sexually abused by their supervisors fail to report such matters to the relevant people. This makes rape cases and other sexual assault incidents to go unreported. This gives the perpetrators an opportunity to continue with their criminal behaviors of sexually assaulting inmates. However, sexually abused inmates have contributed greatly in making the government and the society know about the criminal activities that are taking place in community correction facilities. Through inmates, different policies, such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, have been enacted to help reduce rape cases in prisons (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009).

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Like inmates, prison professionals have influenced the problem of corrections-based sexual assault either positively or negatively. According to Abner and Browning and Clark (2009), many prison professionals take advantage of inmates, particularly female inmates, and sexually assault them. Some of the inmates are young and have no powers to defy their supervisors’ requests. Those inmates who cannot give in to the requests of their supervisors are raped and threatened not to report the incident. In rare cases, prison officials report cases of sexual assaults on inmates by their fellow members of staff. When such cases are revealed, legal action is taken against perpetrators, which helps to reduce incidents of correction-based sexual assaults (Abner and Browning and Clark, 2009).

According to Beck (2012a), a recent report by Just Detention International indicates that American corrections officials uniformly denied that the problem of corrections-bases sexual assault exists in the United States prisons. This prevents concerned organizations from implementing strategies that can help prevent cases of sexual abuse among inmates. This proves that irresponsible prison staff is one of the major factors that put inmates at risk of sexual abuse when they are in detention.

The five external stakeholders who have influenced the issue of corrections-based sexual assault either positively or negatively include the United States government, policy makers, researchers, public health sector, and the community. According to Abner and Browning and Clark (2009), both state and federal governments of the United States have played their roles in ensuring that sexual abuse is completely eliminated from the corrections facilities. These governments have involved policy makers in formulating policies that will ensure that appropriate actions are taken against perpetrators of sexual abuse in community correction facilities. The policies that have been formulated by the state and federal governments in collaboration with policy makers seek to detect, reduce, and prevent prison rape. In addition, the United States government has worked closely with human rights organizations to implement standards that ensure reduction of rape cases in correction facilities. Unfortunately, the prison officials who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the set policies and standards are effectively followed have failed in playing their roles as required. In addition, certain policies such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 place additional obstacles on fighting for the rights of prisoners (Ellenbogen, 2009).

Comprehensive data about rape cases in community corrections facilities are made available by researchers who intend to inform the government and the community about the problems faced by inmates when in detention. For example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Inmate Survey give data about the nature of crimes in the United States prisons and the actions that have been taken against the perpetrators (Knowles, 1999). When researchers give comprehensive details about correction-based sexual assault, they facilitate implementation of standards to help reduce cases of sexual abuse in prisons. However, when the researchers give limited information concerning sexual abuse cases in prisons, they limit the efforts that may be put in place to help solve the problem (Knowles, 1999).

When inmates who have been sexually assaulted are released from prison, they interact with the community more than they are in detention. The inmates who have acquired sexually transmitted infections can be prevented form from transmitting such infections to others if they are welcomed and guided by the community. In addition, the community can advise prison officials not to assault the inmates sexually. Unfortunately, the community has shown little interest in incorporating inmates back to their midst and has done little to help prevent prison officials from sexually assaulting their inmates. According to Hammett and Harmon (2002), the public health sector has reported the occurrence of sexually transmitted infections among inmates in the recent past. This data can be used by policy makers to implement standards that can help reduce such occurrences by eliminating sexual assault cases in prisons. However, the health data of inmates in some prisons is always limited which prevents complete elimination of problems related to corrections-based sexual assaults from United States prisons (Ellenbogen, 2009).

In order to completely solve the problem of corrections-based sexual assault that is common in the United States community prisons, both internal and external stakeholders will have to be involved. The inmates and prison professionals will have to be conversant with various ways through which sexual assaults in prisons can be reduced and eliminated. Similarly, the government, policy makers, researchers, public health sector, and the community will have to infirmed of the significance of reducing and eliminating sexual assault from community prisons. Both internal and external stakeholders will be motivated to buy into the solution only if they are made to understand the positive consequences of reducing and eliminating sexual assault incidents from the United States prisons (Knowles, 1999).

Technology influences

Lack of modern information technology systems in the United States community prisons has greatly contributed to the rising cases of corrections-based sexual assaults in the country. As Ellenbogen (2009) puts it, proper elimination of crimes depends on how the perpetrators of such crimes are handles. For perpetrators of crimes to be jailed there must be sufficient evidence linking them with the alleged crimes. The use of outdated information technology systems in the United States prisons result into loss of evidence and the subsequent freedom of perpetrators. The perpetrators who are freed due to lack of sufficient evidence are highly likely to continue with their sexual assaults in community prisons.

For example, some inmates, both males and females, who are sexually assaulted while in prisons normally report such incidents to responsible prison officials who are ready to listen to their problems. When the inmates are giving reports, their statements are normally written down in pieces of paper which are later place in their files. Since these files are always left unsecured on prison shelves, the perpetrators often find time to interfere with the evidence. The perpetrators may also threaten the victims preventing them from testifying before the court, which makes various rape cases to flop. The more the rapists go unpunished, the more inmates they continue to assault. This prevents reduction and elimination of corrections-based sexual assaults from the United States community prisons (Knowles, 1999).

Additionally, corrections-based sexual assault cases continue to rise in the United States prisons due to lack of a quick method of communication to enable inmates report rape cases as soon as they occur. The community prisons in the United States do not have internally installed phones to enable prisoners to communicate with relevant people who can listen to their problems. Some prison officials handle inmates so harshly that the inmates find it difficult to present their concerns to their supervisors. This lack of a close relationship between inmates and their supervisors call for the need of installing phones in prisons to enable prisoners address their concerns to those who can help them. Since there are no such phones in the community prisons, inmates are unable to report rape cases and other forms of sexual assaults that they face, which prevents elimination of the problem (Knowles, 1999).

Therefore, it is very important that technology be incorporated into the solution to ensure that sufficient evidence is preserved and that perpetrators of crime are imprisoned for sexually assaulting inmates (Knowles, 1999). Technology should be implemented in three different ways to facilitate prevention, reduction, and elimination of sexual assault cases that are common in community prisons. The first way through which technology should be incorporated into the solution is by supplying and installing modern computers in all prison departments for use by prison officials. The prison officials can record inmates’ statements in the computers and protect the information using their secret personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords. This will prevent perpetrators from getting access to that information and from interfering with available evidence.

Additionally, modern phones should be installed in prisons to enable inmates report rape cases to the right people as fast as possible. The inmates must not use these phones to report cases directly to prison officials, but can pass the information to various organizations in the community that fight for human rights (Ellenbogen, 2009). By making calls directly to those who can assist them, the prisoners will be able to help in reducing, preventing, and eliminating sexual assault cases from the United States community prisons. Another way through which technology will be implemented into the solution is by using technology body cameras that will secretly be given to all inmates, both males and females. These cameras should be collected for analysis by a concerned prison official on a daily basis. This way, sufficient evidence will be retained and criminals will be jailed for their wrong doing, which will help to solve cases of sexual assaults in community prisons (Ellenbogen, 2009).

Data collection

Qualitative and quantitative studies have been reviewed to examine the extent of corrections-based sexual assaults in the United States community prisons. This has led to the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data to indicate there is a problem. Hinman (2008) conducted a quantitative study to examine the prevalence of sexual among inmates detained in Oregon state prisons. The researcher collected data from inmates through face-to-face interviews. From the study, Hinman (2008) found out that more than 5 percent of the inmates are frequently abused sexually by prison officials and by their fellow inmates. 2 percent of the participants reported that they have been assaulted sexually more than three times while another 2 percent reported that they have been assaulted around ten times while in prison. The result of this study is a representative data for all United States prisons indicating that the problem of corrections-based sexual assault still exists in the country’s correctional facilities. Hinman’s study is relevant for the current problem because it reveals the extent to which sexual assault cases are rampant in the United States prisons.

Javaid conducted a qualitative study in 2014 to assess why the media, criminology, and state agencies focus more on female rape victims than male victims. According to Javaid (2014), female rape cases in the United States prisons have attracted more attention in social sciences than male rape cases. This leads to limited data about male rape, although it is important to understand that even male inmates are potential targets for sexual assaults. After gathering information from both primary and secondary data, Javaid (2014) revealed that male rape cases are highly underreported because the media, police, criminology, and state agencies view women to be more vulnerable to sexual assaults than men. However, research on sexual assault cases in the United States prisons should focus on both males and females alike. Qualitative data obtained from Javaid’s study is relevant for the current problem because it reveals that even male inmates are victims of sexual assaults in the United States prisons.

Solutions and a course of action

There are two approaches that can be used to solve the problem of corrections-based sexual assaults in the United States community prisons. The first solution involves implementation of programs and services that can help to keep inmates occupied, meet the needs of juveniles and prisoners, and that can improve the lives of all inmates who are kept in detention. According to English, Heil and Dumond, (2011), there is great need for high quality programs and services that can help inmates to be successfully transitioned back to the community. Such programs will help increase the safety level of inmates while in prisons by preventing boredom and idleness among prisoners. If the programs are properly implemented, they will help to improve institutional safety and prepare inmates for successful release (English, Heil and Dumond, 2011).

The action plan for successful implementation of quality programs and services involved five different steps. In the first step, new detainees should be given orientation on the procedures of making phone calls, reporting sexual assault cases and accessing medical services to enable them report cases of assaults immediately they occur. The second step involves staff training on the roles of creating maximum safety for inmates and procedures of reporting sexual assault cases. In the third step, prison officials should be taught to focus on inmate needs and assist them on behavior change throughout incarceration period. The fourth step involves the use of community and volunteer agencies to help meet the needs of inmates in areas such as education and public health. Finally, it is important to create established links between community prisons and community agencies in order to increase transition of prisoners back to the community.

The other solution to the corrections-based sexual assaults in the United States prisons involves conducting detailed and independent investigation processes to ensure that no prison officials sexually assault the inmates. According to English, Heil and Dumond, (2011), the rising cases of corrections-based sexual assault in prisons can effectively and efficiently be reduced and eliminated by prosecuting perpetrators of sexual assaults, both staff and inmates. This explains why comprehensive investigations are necessary in solving the current problem as it will help in building strong evidence that is required in court.

The action plan for successful implementation of the second solution involves five steps with the first one being training investigation, medical and security staff in how to employ effective investigation techniques to conduct comprehensive investigations. In the second step, the prison professionals should be taught in how to respond immediately to all sexual assault cases. Third, prison professionals should be taken guided on how to investigate all incidents of sexual assaults within the community prisons. In the fourth step, all prison staff should be taught on how to respond sensitively to victims’ reports. The fifth step involves conducting follow-ups to ensure that perpetrators of sexual assault are appropriately prosecuted and that all inmates’ problems are effectively addressed.

Methods of assessment

The method of assessment that will be employed to measure the effectiveness of the two solutions described above must be able to provide information about how sexual assault cases in the United States prisons is changing. Additionally, the assessment method must be able to provide feedback on major areas of accomplishments as well as those areas that require improvement. The best assessment method that will be employed in this case is institutional data that will be used to examine whether the current situation of sexual assaults in community prisons is changing. When using institutional data to assess the effectiveness of the two solutions, it will be important to collect inmate and departmental data at the prison level in order to see how changes in crime rates are taking place following implementation of the solutions. Institutional data is the best assessment method for determining the effectiveness of the solutions because it is readily available and easily accessible. However, such data sets may be too large to analyze especially for those people who have problems working through very large databases (O’Farrell, 2012).

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