Reporting behaviors of women inmates

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University of Alabama Libraries

Sexual assault within the correctional system has been a constant issue in America since its creation. While special protections are supposed to be provided for vulnerable populations such as inmates, research shows that for many inmates in prisons around the country, adequate protection against inappropriate sexual behaviors is not ensured. The best way to ensure inmates’ protection is to have a reporting system in place, but this system can only work if the inmates trust the system and feel that it is legitimate enough for them to utilize it. If inmates do not file reports, there is a systematic issue with the prison’s reporting system that must be addressed. The present study was conducted by interviewing 40 women inmates in the Birmingham Work Release Facility in Birmingham, Alabama and it examined how comfortable inmates were with reporting inappropriate sexual behavior when it happens, and when the report is made, how they felt it was handled. The study found that after the Department of Justice settlement agreement made with the Alabama Department of Corrections that mandated changes to be made in the treatment of sexual assault within their facilities, women inmates felt more comfortable reporting abuse; however, reporting was highly dependent on the facility they were incarcerated in and the level of trust they had in the correctional staff. The conclusions of the study allow researchers to better understand the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviors in prisons as it relates to the reporting systems in place and be able to take meaningful steps to improve the safety of inmates in prisons today. Keywords: Women’s prisons, sexual assault, legitimacy and trust, sexual assault reporting, PREA

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