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Preventing Violence and Sexual Assault in Jail: A Situational Crime Prevention Approach

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2011
4 pages
Based on input from Urban Institute researchers, three county jails adopted strategies for preventing sexual assault and violence among inmates by making it more difficult to commit violent acts and by increasing the risk that perpetrators will be identified and held accountable.
One jail installed an electronic system for tracking jail officers' rounds. Another jail installed cameras designed to reduce blind spots and record evidence for investigations. A third jail trained officers in crisis intervention so as to improve their interactions with inmates and their ability to identify and prevent violent acts. Based on the experiences of these jails in deciding upon and implementing changes to reduce inmate violence and sexual assaults, a number of recommendations are offered. First, when considering new safety interventions, rely on a four-step process: analyze the dates, times, locations, and contexts of previous incidents; use evidence-based strategies to address the jail's particular needs and vulnerabilities; fit those strategies into an overall system of best practices for classifying, supervising, and managing inmates and designing jails; and continually evaluate the intervention and make changes as needed. It is also recommended that when developing strategies to reduce violence, be aware that the causes, contextual factors, and opportunities to commit violent acts may differ by the type of violence or type of population. In addition, cameras should be positioned to record who goes in and out of cells when inmates are in the dayrooms. Training officers to be more attentive to inmate movements can achieve the same type of surveillance. Other recommendations pertain to the prevention of contraband in the jail, a zero tolerance policy regarding staff sexual misconduct and consensual sex between inmates, the provisions of medicine or mental health care, and the training of officers to act professionally while implementing accountability and performance measures. 4 references

Date Published: December 1, 2011