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Gendered Violence and Safety: A Contextual Approach to Improving Security in Women's Facilities: Part I of III Gendered Violence and Safety: Improving Security in Women’s Facilities

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2008
97 pages
This first part of a three-part report on a project that investigated the context of gendered violence and safety in women’s correctional facilities reviews the relevant literature, summarizes findings from focus groups, draws policy implications, and offers recommendations for increasing safety for women inmates.
The literature review suggests that individual inmate factors alone do not sufficiently explain violent behavior in women’s prisons. Although they have a significant effect on any given woman’s potential for violence and conflict, individual factors are mitigated or aggravated by contextual elements in the prison/jail environment, including relationships, groups, and environmental factors. The summary findings from the focus groups for inmates and correctional staff note significant agreement regarding the causes of fighting and other forms of violence in women’s prisons/jails. Generally, both groups believed that jealousy, debts, and disrespect were the major triggers for violence. The focus groups also revealed that violence in women’s correctional facilities occurs on a continuum that includes verbal conflict, economic conflict and exploitation, physical violence, and sexual violence. Sexual violence has its own continuum, which includes sexual comments and touching, sexual pressure or intimidation, stalking, sexual aggression, sexual violence in particular relationships, and sexual assault. In drawing policy implications and recommendations from the findings, the focus is on improving sexual safety, which is the concern of the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). This report advises that the first step in meeting the goals of PREA is to recognize that safety and violence have different meanings for female and male inmates. It argues that sexual safety for female inmates requires focusing on both “kinds of persons” and “kinds of places.” This requires that prevention, intervention, and treatment be components of a comprehensive approach to inmate safety. 163 references

Date Published: November 1, 2008