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Strategies to Prevent Prison Rape by Changing the Correctional Culture Nij 2008

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OCT. 08

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice

Research for

Practice

Strategies to Prevent Prison Rape by
Changing the Correctional Culture
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
810 Seventh Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20531

Michael B. Mukasey
Attorney General
Jeffrey L. Sedgwick
Assistant Attorney General
David W. Hagy
Director, National Institute of Justice

This and other publications and products
of the National Institute of Justice can be
found at:
National Institute of Justice
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

Office of Justice Programs
Innovation • Partnerships • Safer Neighborhoods
www.ojp.usdoj.gov

OCT. 08

Strategies to Prevent Prison Rape by
Changing the Correctional Culture

This research was
conducted as a
collaboration between
the Urban Institute
and the Association
of State Correctional
Administrators.

Opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors. They do not
necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department
of Justice, the National Institute of Justice, the Urban Institute, or its trustees.
The report was prepared for the National Institute of Justice under grant
number 2004-RP-BX-0001. The research contained in this document was
coordinated in part by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice under
research agreement #477-R05. The contents of this report reflect the views
of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice.

NCJ 222843

ReseaRch foR PRactice / oct. 08

ABOUT THIS REPORT
To discover successful
strategies and programs for
addressing the problem of
sexual violence in state pris­
ons, a research team from
the Urban Institute and the
Association of State Correc­
tional Administrators inter­
viewed prison officials in 45
states. This report presents
promising initiatives and prac­
tices identified in 11 states.

Strong leadership in state
prison administrations is
critical to changing prison
culture. Zero tolerance for
sexual violence and other
predatory behavior was cited
as the foundation for suc­
cessful programs.

What did the
researchers find?

•	 Developing	a	departmentwide strategy and specific
policies and programs for
inmate education as well as
investigation, prosecution,
provision of victim services,
and accurate documenta­
tion of sexual assaults.

Prison officials said inmates
had many reservations about
reporting sexual violence. In­
mates were afraid that prison
officials would not protect
them from retaliation if they
reported incidents. In addition,
many inmates doubted that
prison officials would take
reports of sexual violence
seriously.
Commitment to changing the
institutional culture in prisons
is important, but resistance
to change — among agency
staff and corrections officers
as well as inmates — was
often cited as the greatest
challenge.

ii

To deal with the effects of
sexual violence and eventually
eliminate it, state correctional
administrators recommend:

•	 Cultivating	management,	
staff and inmate buy-in to
the strategy.
•	 Developing	staff	in-service	
training programs that
specifically address rape,
and ensuring that staff will
be protected from false
allegations.
•	 Developing	inmate	educa­
tion programs that explain
prison policies and practices
regarding rape, inmate
rights, and how to avoid
assault.

stRategies to PRevent PRison RaPe

Janine M. Zweig and John Blackmore

Strategies to Prevent Prison Rape
by Changing the Correctional
Culture

About the Authors
Janine M. Zweig, Ph.D.,
is a Senior Research
Associate in the
Urban Institute’s
Justice Policy Center.
John Blackmore
is Senior Associate
of the Association
of State Correctional
Administrators
and President of
The Reform Group, Inc.,
a national criminal justice
consulting organization.

Before the Prison Rape
Elimination Act (PREA) of
2003, little information was
available about what state
prison systems were doing
to prevent, detect, investi­
gate or deal with the consequences of sexual violence
within their institutions.
No one had systematically
documented which state
prisons were carrying out
specific strategies to address
the problem. During the late
1990s, Human Rights Watch
requested information about
rape prevention practices
from state prisons and the
Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The organization learned
that few departments were
addressing prison rape at the
time.1 Most state prisons did
not have a rape prevention
program in place. Only six departments reported that they
provided specialized training
to correctional officers in
recognizing and responding
to rape. PREA has changed
all that. The legislation has
motivated many prisons to
develop or refine specific
rape prevention strategies.

Confronting sexual
violence in prisons
In 2005, the Urban Institute
teamed up with the Asso­
ciation of State Correctional
Administrators to study the
issue of prison rape. With
funding from NIJ, researchers documented state prison
initiatives designed to address rape and documented
specific practices that correctional officials identified
as promising or innovative.
The research team surveyed
correctional administrators
in 45 states and conducted
a series of interviews with
67 correctional officials who
either designed or were running the promising programs.
The team developed 11 case
studies based on visits to
state prisons having the best
programs and strategies in
place. The states in which
case studies were conducted
— Connecticut, Idaho, Kan­
sas, Maine, Massachusetts,
Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah
— were chosen because the
research team determined

1

ReseaRch foR PRactice / oct. 08

they would provide the most
informative lessons.
Many of the case study
states were trying to change
the prison institutional culture
as a step toward preventing
sexual violence. Commit­
ment to change is one of the
most important parts of many
states’ prevention initiatives.
However, resistance to
cultural change — by correc­
tional staff and inmates alike
— was identified as posing
the greatest challenge. One
commonly cited barrier was
the unwillingness of agency
staff and correctional officers
to change their attitudes and
behaviors. Some line staff
and supervisors were not
comfortable with the idea
that a prisoner could also be
a victim. Some “old-timers”
still argued that the purpose
of the prison was to protect
the public, not to protect
inmates from other inmates.
Some harbored the belief
that life in prison should be
“hard” and punishing.
Other agency directors
stated that staff members
resisted change out of fear
of false accusations. Prison
staff members worried that
inmates, once encouraged to
come forward with informa­
tion about rapes, would unfair­
ly accuse staff members. On

2

the other hand, administrators
in some states reported that
the greater challenge was
developing confidence within
the inmate population that
prisons would take rape seri­
ously, take swift action to deal
with reported incidents, and
otherwise protect prisoners.
The states that took part
in the study have tried to
change the institutional cul­
ture in their prisons in several
ways, for example:
n	

Changing negative prison
culture by showing strong
leadership and model­
ing positive behavior and
attitudes at the highest
levels of management with
the idea that this would
“trickle down” to manag­
ers and staff throughout
the prisons.

n	

Conducting in-service staff
training programs to gain
staff cooperation with new
rape elimination programs
and policies while assuring
them of protection from
false allegations.

n	

Educating inmates about
prison policies and prac­
tices regarding rape, in­
mates’ rights, and ways for
inmates to protect them­
selves both from sexual
violence and from false al­
legations of such violence.

stRategies to PRevent PRison RaPe

Changing correctional
culture: Leadership
matters
Although many state prison
officials acknowledged that
changing the prison culture
would be a significant chal­
lenge in any efforts to prevent
prison rape, most identified
strong, consistent leadership
from the senior levels within
their departments as the
most effective method of ad­
dressing this challenge. Most
of the 11 case study states
developed statewide policies
that include staff training,
investigation procedures,
documentation procedures,
victim services and preven­
tion efforts. A commitment
to changing the correctional
culture, made at the most
senior levels of corrections
departments, was a common
theme throughout many of
the states’ new prison rape
policies and procedures. This
high-level commitment to
cultural change throughout
the correctional system is
being reflected in changes
in the attitudes of both staff
and inmates. Most of these
departments have officially
adopted policies of zero toler­
ance toward prison rape as a
sound basis for several new
programs. In addition, many
officials see that actively
addressing the issue of prison

rape is part of a larger goal of
operating safe prisons — they
believe that incidents of rape
reveal a breakdown in overall
prison security.
The Texas Department of
Criminal Justice’s Safe Pris­
ons Program and the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation
and Correction’s Ten Point
Plan are regarded by many
prison officials as the most
comprehensive statewide
prison rape initiatives. Other
states have used these initia­
tives as models for policy
and program development.
The centerpiece of the Texas
Safe Prisons Program is the
proclamation of zero toler­
ance for sexual abuse or any
form of predation. Every cor­
rectional employee is obliged
to ensure the safety and
security of prisoners. Ohio’s
Ten Point Plan also stresses
zero tolerance for sexual and
other predatory behaviors. In
Ohio, both staff and adminis­
trators feel there has been an
“overall change in tone” over
the past several years that
has originated with the direc­
tor and spread to the facilities
throughout the system.
Oregon’s approach to
preventing and responding
to sexual violence is part of
a larger effort to initiate a
change in the prison culture,

3

ReseaRch foR PRactice / oct. 08

as reflected in the Oregon
Accountability Model. The
model’s objective is to raise
awareness about prison
rape and institute a policy of
zero tolerance. The program
involves protecting inmates
and staff and improving
security, with the goal of
creating an environment in
which inmates and staff feel
safe. Some prison officials in
Oregon identified the change
in prison culture as one of
the main strengths of their
approach.
Idaho’s Maintaining Dignity
program is another example
of a statewide initiative that
seeks to effect a cultural
change in the attitudes of
staff and inmates toward
prison rape. This program
reinforces the message that
rape is neither an unavoid­
able nor an acceptable part of
prison life. Some state prison
officials reported that chang­
ing the prison staff culture
has been one of the greatest
challenges in carrying out
Directive No. 325, Idaho’s
official prison rape policy.
Prison officials in other states
expressed similar views. In
most cases, both adminis­
trators and staff identified
strong leadership from the
top as critical to achieving
cultural change.

4

Staff training: Showing
staff how to create
safer prisons
The researchers asked state
prison officials to tell them
about their efforts to edu­
cate staff about prison rape.
Thirty-six (80 percent) of
the 45 participating states
had staff training programs
specifically devoted to
sexual violence. Many of
the programs had been set
up in response to the Prison
Rape Elimination Act. The 11
states in which case studies
were conducted all require
staff, contractors and volun­
teers to take part in training
in preventing and respond­
ing to sexual violence. They
used several approaches to
develop or improve their staff
training. In Idaho, the PREA
Coordinator worked with lo­
cal investigators, the National
Institute of Corrections, and
the state police to develop
the program. In Pennsylvania
and Texas, correctional staff
developed the training, and
state-level sexual assault
coalition members — experts
from outside corrections —
reviewed the program and
provided suggestions.
In contrast to the statewide
programs already mentioned,
Maine’s staff training on
prison rape was developed

stRategies to PRevent PRison RaPe

by staff of one facility — the
Maine Correctional Center
(MCC) — rather than the
central office of the state
corrections department. In
this case, an investigator at
the center launched local
efforts to ameliorate local
instances of sexual violence.
The investigator, with other
state prison representatives
and a representative from
the local attorney general’s
office, attended a National In­
stitute of Corrections training
on prison rape prevention.
Subsequently, he worked
with other staff at MCC to
develop a four-hour training
program and produce a train­
ing manual dealing with staff
sexual misconduct.
When carrying out prison
rape training, the 11 case
study states use various
learning strategies and
instructional techniques,
including:
n	

Requiring staff training that
is repeated on a regular
basis as refresher courses
or “booster” sessions.
Conducting annual (as in
Texas), biannual (Oregon),
or triannual (Pennsylvania)
in-service training.

n	

Providing training in a class­
room setting (at least for
prison staff recruits) that

may involve a lecture for­
mat, often supplemented
by slide presentations.
n	

Providing written materi­
als that participants are
encouraged to keep and
refer to after the classroom
training is over (provided by
10 of the states).

n	

Showing videos (provided
in eight of the states) in
the classroom that portray
an inmate’s victimization
— shared by the inmate
himself or by a narrator
— making the issue more
immediate and accessible
to staff.

n	

Using computer-based
training so staff can train
themselves (provided by
two states).

n	

Role-playing prison in­
cidents (used by seven
states in their training
programs).

In Minnesota, the training is
conducted through several
distinct programs. The
“Crossing the Line” training
was developed to ensure that
all employees, volunteers and
contractors understand that
they must maintain a profes­
sional bearing with, and a
personal detachment from,
the prisoners. The “Crossing
the Line” curriculum involves
5

ReseaRch foR PRactice / oct. 08

a series of lectures, large and
small group discussions, and
minilectures. Other programs
in Minnesota prisons that
address sexual violence is­
sues are “Avoiding Set-Ups,”
“Life Inside,” and ”Sexual
Misconduct.”
Regardless of how the staff
training is provided or who
delivers it, the training in the
case study states covers a
wide variety of topics related
to sexual violence. Exhibit 1
identifies the topics covered
in staff training courses in the
11 case study states. Most
states focus on the nature of
prison rape, its effects and
ways to respond to incidents.
Ten of the 11 states cover
specifics of PREA, informa­
tion about the effects of rape
on victims, detecting victims
in the prison population, the
dynamics of inmate-against­
inmate rape, investigating
incidents of rape, and ad­
dressing victims’ needs for
safety and for information
about meeting their medi­
cal needs. Staff training was
less focused on detect­
ing staff perpetrators and
inmate-against-staff violence.
Notably, only four case study
states provided information
to staff on the dynamics of
inmate-against-staff sexual vi­
olence, and only three states
provided information on how
to detect staff perpetrators.
6

Inmate education:
Helping inmates
protect themselves
Inmate education programs
that provide information
about prison rape are con­
sidered an important part of
the rape prevention strate­
gies of all 11 case study
states identified as having
innovative approaches. All
11 states either have already
set up inmate education
programs or are developing
such programs. These states
provide education about
sexual violence in prisons at
reception, and many of these
states have policies requiring
that prisoners receive educa­
tional information when they
transfer to a different prison.
Most states present educa­
tional information orally and in
writing. Several states, such
as Minnesota, Kansas and Or­
egon, have developed videos
that inmates watch during
their orientation sessions.
Minnesota provides inmates
with an orientation program
consisting of formal classes,
video presentations and writ­
ten materials. New inmates
receive written and oral infor­
mation about sexual violence
prevention, intervention and
self-protection. Inmates learn
that sexual misconduct is
prohibited. They also learn

stRategies to PRevent PRison RaPe

Connecticut

Idaho

Kansas

Mainea

Massachusetts

Minnesota

Ohio

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Texas

Utah

Exhibit 1. Topics Covered in Training on Sexual Violence in Case Study States

Defining prison rape

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

specifics about Prison Rape elimination act

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X


specifics about state legislation and criminal statutes

X

X

X

X

X
X

Topic

specifics about punishments, prosecution and liability of 

staff perpetrators

X

X

X

X

X

X
X

X
X

information about the effects of prison rape on victims

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

information about the effects of rape on the prison
community

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X
X

education about what behaviors are unacceptable
addressing situations where inmates report being 

vulnerable to rape

X

X

X

X

X

Detecting victims

X

X

X

X

X

X

X


X

X
X


X

X

X

X


X

X


Dynamics of staff-against-inmate rape

X

X

X

Dynamics of inmate-against-staff rape

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

addressing victims’ safety needs

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

addressing victims’ medical needs

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Documenting reported incidents

X

X

X

X

X

X

carrying out disciplinary action

X

X

X

X

X

X


a

X


X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

addressing forensic evidence collection

X

X

X

X

X


X

X

investigating incidents

X


X

Detecting inmate perpetrators

X

X

X

X

X

X


X

Detecting staff perpetrators

Dynamics of inmate-against-inmate rape

X

X

X

X

X


X

X


X

X


X

X


X

X

X


X

X

X


X

X

X


X

X


X

X

training topics identified for Maine are for training provided specifically in the Maine correctional center.

7

ReseaRch foR PRactice / oct. 08

how to identify and report
misconduct (including the
possibility of reporting to
nonuniformed staff), how a
false accusation is defined,
and the penalties for making
a false accusation. Within
the first 28 days after admis­
sion,2 all inmates are required
to watch a video, “Sexual
Misconduct for Staff.” They
also receive a brochure
titled “Sexual Abuse/Assault
Prevention and Intervention,”
which defines sexual mis­
conduct as abuse or assault.
Inmates are informed of
steps to take to reduce their
chances of being raped.
Exhibit 2 summarizes the
prison rape inmate educa­
tion programs in the 11 case
study states. Regardless of
how the inmate education
is provided or who delivers
it, a wide variety of topics
is covered. These topics
mostly focus on the nature
of prison rape and its effects
on victims. All case study
states provide educational
information to inmates on the
definition of prison rape; the
effects of rape on victims;
how to report incidents of
rape; what to do if assaulted,
beyond reporting the incident
(e.g., not showering so DNA
evidence can be collected);
ways to avoid rape; and
dynamics of inmate-against­
inmate rape. Only three
8

states included information
on the dynamics of inmate­
against-staff sexual violence.

The elements of prison
culture change
The passage of PREA has
compelled states to embark
on efforts to address prison
rape or further refine strate­
gies that were under way
before the act. Several state
prison administrators have
identified the corrections
culture as an impediment to
carrying out effective policy
changes and have called
for efforts to address this.
Strong leadership, staff train­
ing and inmate education are
critical to changing the prison
culture and thus helping
prevent sexual violence in
prisons, both among inmates
and between staff and in­
mates. However, there is not
yet a solid body of evidence
as to what strategies and
interventions prevent rape.
To learn what works, promis­
ing strategies must be put to
the test.
The first phase of a research
model based on the PREA
mandates has been carried
out. A series of studies fund­
ed by the Bureau of Justice
Statistics will determine the
prevalence of prison rape.

stRategies to PRevent PRison RaPe

X

X

X

X

X

X

specifics about state legislation and criminal statutes

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

information about the effects of prison rape on victims

X

X

X

X

X

X

education about what behaviors are unacceptable

X

X

X

X

X

X

What to do if inmate feels vulnerable to rape

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

how to report incidents that happen to self

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

What to do if assaulted, beyond reporting (e.g., not showering 

so Dna evidence can be collected)

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

how to contact outside victim service provider

X

X

X

how to report incidents that happen to others

X

X

X

X

X

X

Ways to avoid rape

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Dynamics of inmate-against-inmate rape

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Dynamics of staff-against-inmate rape

X

X

X

X

X

X

X


X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

What happens if inmate makes a false report

X

X

confidentiality

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X


X


X

X

Rights of a prison rape victim

Dynamics of inmate-against-staff rape

Utah

X

Texas

X

X

Pennsylvania

specifics about the Prison Rape elimination act

Oregon

X

Ohio

X

Minnesota

Kansas

X

Massachusettsb

Idaho

Defining rape

Topic

Mainea

Connecticut

Exhibit 2. Topics Covered in Inmate Education Curricula in Case Study States

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X


X


X

X

X

X


X

X

X


X

X


X

X

X


X

X

X

X

X

X

X


X

X

X


X

X

X

X


training topics identified for Maine are for training provided specifically in the Maine correctional center.
Massachusetts’ inmate training curriculum was under development and review at the time this report was prepared.
Listed items are likely to be a part of the final curriculum.
a
b

9

ReseaRch foR PRactice / oct. 08

The National Institute of
Justice has also funded sev­
eral studies, such as the one
described here. With these
efforts in place, the next
phases of a research model
on the subject of prison rape
will be as follows:

10

n	

Assessing the effectiveness
or potency of interventions
by testing single interven­
tions across various set­
tings (e.g., departments,
types of facilities, types of
populations).

n	

Comparing effective
interventions over time to
learn which ones are the
most effective at reducing
and preventing prison rape.
This will involve quantita­
tive and qualitative assess­
ments of selected inter­
ventions, comparing their

effectiveness in different
settings and with control
settings where no interven­
tions exist.

Notes
1. From Human Rights
Watch, No Escape: Male
Rape in U.S. Prisons, Wash­
ington, DC: Human Rights
Watch, April 2001, available
online at http://www.hrw.org/
reports/2001/prison. An initial
request for information let­
ter was sent to correctional
authorities in all 50 states;
47 responded, although the
nature of the responses was
not reported.
2. Prisoners readmitted
within a year are not required
to retake the orientation.

The National Institute of Justice is the
research, development, and evaluation
agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.
NIJ’s mission is to advance scientific research,
development, and evaluation to enhance the
administration of justice and public safety.

The National Institute of Justice is a component of
the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes
the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of
Justice Statistics; the Community Capacity
Development Office; the Office for Victims of
Crime; the Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention; and the Office of Sex
Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending,
Registering, and Tracking (SMART).

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