On September 4, 2003, President Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) into law. As a part of the law, Congress charged the National Institute of Corrections with a variety of tasks to assist the field of corrections. Included among these are the provision of training and education about the law and the issue which prompted its passage.
A key element of providing this assistance is to build our relevant knowledge about sexual assault in correctional institutions. While it is important to identify and hear from various experts, it is equally important to understand the issue from the perspective of correctional staff. To begin collecting input and information the decision was made early in NIC’s PREA Initiative to conduct a series of focus groups at several facilities around the country.
Achieving a regional balance, NIC identified and worked with a variety of prisons and jails, both large and small. Focus groups were conducted with facility executive staff, mid-managers, line officers, and administrative and support staff who perform an array of functions. The participants responded to several questions regarding the problems they encounter in preventing or responding to an incident, and described any successes their agencies had addressing the issue. Questions regarding the dynamics explored what the participants knew generally about sexual assault, plus what procedures had been put in place and what training had been received. These discussions yielded a rich source of information directly from the field about attitudes, knowledge, and current practices.
Staff Perspectives on Sexual Violence in Adult Prisons and Jails: Trends from Focus Group Interviews is an overview of this work and the first volume in a series of bulletins. In addition to key findings, it presents staff views on policy and training, inmate culture, causes and conditions, assault indicators, characteristics of victims and perpetrators, inmate orientation, investigations and prosecutions, and issues regarding responding to sexual violence. It is hoped that these ideas and recommendations will assist you and your agency as you develop strategies to address the problem of sexual violence in correctional institutions.
~ Morris L. Thigpen, Sr.