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Gendered Violence and Safety: A Contextual Approach to Improving Security in Women's Facilities

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2008
440 pages
This is the full report of a project that investigated the context of gendered violence and safety in women’s correctional facilities, using focus groups with female inmates and staff, as well as surveys.
The data support the hypothesis that sexual violence is embedded in a broader context of violence and safety and that this context is gender-based. Violence in women’s correctional facilities was found to stem from features of overlapping individual, relational, institutional, and societal factors. The study found, however, that violence in women’s jails and prisons is not a dominant characteristic of daily life, but rather is a potential experience of inmates that is determined and shaped by time, place, prison culture, interpersonal relationships, and staff actions. Ongoing tensions and conflict, lack of economic opportunity, and few therapeutic options for addressing past victimization and conflicts in relationships increases the risk for violence in a given facility. The report argues that prevention and intervention are primary strategies in complying with the goals of the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). These strategies should include inmate programs and education, staff training, and other operational practices. Recommendations focus on three domains of prison life. One domain is the interaction among individual, relational, community, and societal factors. A second domain pertains to the prevention of escalating conflict, particularly regarding sexual violence in relationships. The third domain pertains to the psychological physical, social, and moral forms of safety. This full report is in three parts. Part I summarize the study findings and provide recommendations for improving safety in jails and prisons for women offenders. Part II presents a detailed analysis of the focus group data. Part III describes the development of quantitative measures of violence and safety in women’s correctional facilities. Extensive tables, references for each of the major parts, and separate appended supplementary information and data for each part

Date Published: November 1, 2008