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Victimization in Detention Facilities


What is PREA?

The U.S. Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003, recognizing that sexual abuse is a serious and persistent problem in correctional environments. PREA states that sexual abuse in correctional settings can constitute a violation of the 8th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and requires that facilities adopt a zero-tolerance approach to this form of abuse (Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs or WCSAP, 2012).


Motivation for the legislation came in part as a result of a 2001 Human Rights Watch report highlighting the alarming rate of rape in U.S. prisons. Following PREA’s passage, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was formed to study the problem and created standards to address the problem of sexual abuse in correctional settings which were adopted in 2012 in a final ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice. These PREA standards are comprehensive federal regulations for prisons and jails, community confinement facilities, juvenile facilities, lockups and immigration detention centers. The PREA standards cover the following aspects of a correctional facility’s response, detection and prevention of sexual abuse:


  • Prevention Planning
  • Responsive Planning*
  • Training and Education
  • Screening for Risk of Sexual Victimization and Abusiveness
  • Reporting*
  • Official Response Following an Inmate/Resident Report
  • Investigations
  • Discipline
  • Medical and Mental Health Care
  • Data Collection and Review
  • Audits and State Compliance
  • Other Issues - LGBT and Gender-Nonconforming Inmates (activities geared to prevent sexual abuse)

Note “*” the provisions that include victim service standards of PREA.



Types of Sexual Assault in Corrections

The types of sexual assault in correctional settings explained below mirror PREA’s explanation of sexual abuse (Abner, Browning & Clark, 2009; OVW, 2013).


  • Nonconsensual sexual contact between individuals held in a correctional facility: (1) Coercive sexual activity: For example, a person may agree to sexual contact as a result of being threatened or out of the need for protection. Note that, at times, coercive sex may not even be recognized as sexual assault either by victims or corrections staff, especially if it does not involve a threat of physical violence. (2) Violent sexual assault: includes use of physical force/violence.
  • Sexual abuse by corrections staff (staff sexual misconduct): No sexual activity between staff (staff members, contractors or volunteers) and persons housed in correctional facilities is consensual due to staff’s custodial authority over inmates. In addition to sexual contact, staff sexual misconduct also includes exhibitionism and voyeurism. (See WV §61-8B-10)
  • PREA also addresses sexual harassment, defined as (1) repeated and unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or verbal comments, gestures or actions of a derogatory or offensive sexual nature by one inmate toward another; and (2) repeated verbal comments or gestures of a sexual nature to an inmate by staff, including demeaning references to gender, sexually suggestive or derogatory comments about body or clothing or obscene language or gestures.

Note that WV sex offense laws, summarized at http://www.fris.org/Laws/WVLaws.html, apply when an individual in West Virginia is sexually assaulted, whether in the community or correctional settings.




Reporting Sexual Abuse in Correctional Facilities in West Virginia

Regional Jails

Inmate Reports:

  • Dial *9078 on any inmate phone. This allows a report to be made by leaving a message that is sent to the PREA Compliance Officer. The call can be made anonymously.
  • Tell any staff person, verbally or in writing. Information can also be submitted to the facility kiosk.
  • Write to the external reporting agency at:
    WV Fusion Center
    1900 Kanawha Boulevard, Building 1
    West Wing, Suite W-400
    Charleston, WV 23505

Third Party Reports:

  • Call 304-256-6727 and request to speak to the PREA Compliance Officer.
  • E-mail RJA@PREA.wv.gov.

If requested, anonymity will be protected. Include the following information in the report: the incident that occurred, the name of the victim, the name of the suspect and the time and date of the abuse.


Division of Juvenile Services

Resident Reports:

  • Tell any staff member, PREA Counselor or PREA Compliance Manager
  • Submit to the PREA Lock Box
  • Write to the Juvenile Justice Commission (Residents have access to pre-addressed envelopes) at:
    Berkeley County Judicial Center
    380 W South Street., Suite 2101
    Martinsburg, WV, 25401

Resident or Third Party Reports:

  • Call the child abuse hotline (1-800-352-6513)
  • Call the DJS toll-free hotline (1-855-366-0015)
  • E-mail DJSPREACoordinator@wv.gov


Division of Corrections

Inmate Reports:

  • Dial #01 to report (including anonymously). This allows a report to be made by leaving a message which is sent to the Facility PREA Compliance Manager.
  • Tell any staff or employee
  • Write to:
    Director of WV Intelligence/Fusion Center
    1900 Kanawha Blvd., Building 1, Room V-400, Capitol Complex
    Charleston, WV 25305

    (A report will be sent to the PREA Coordinator and forwarded to the Facility PREA Compliance Manager.)

Third Party Reports:

If requested, anonymity will be protected. Try to include the following information: incident that occurred, the name of the victim, the name of the suspected perpetrator and the time and date of the abuse.


Federal Bureau of Prisons

Inmate Reports:

  • Tell any staff member at any facility. Depending on the facility, inmates can alert staff by talking to them, pushing an alert button in their cell or using an emergency phone in the unit.
  • File an administrative remedy to staff on their unit.
  • Send an electronic message to staff. A message can be sent to any department locally.
  • Send an electronic message to the DOJ Sexual Abuse Reporting Mailbox.
  • Write to the Office of the Inspector General:
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Room 4706
    Washington, DC 20530

Third Party Reports:

For inmate abuse of other inmates:

Federal Bureau of Prisons
National PREA Coordinator
Correctional Programs Division
320 First St. NW, Room 554
Washington, DC 20534


For staff abuse of inmates:

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Office of Internal Affairs
320 First St. NW, Room 600
Washington, DC 20534


In the report, try to include the date, time, location and the names of those who are involved.



Barriers to Help and Healing

Like victims in the community, the vast majority of incarcerated victims do not report sexual assault. While they may have typical reactions like self-blame, shame and embarrassment that deter them from seeking help from corrections officials, they also often have considerable fears and concerns about reporting sexual assault due to living in a correctional setting. For example, they may (Office on Violence Against Women, Recommendations for Administrators of Prisons, Jails, and Community Confinement Facilities for Adapting the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents, 2013):


  • Fear that corrections officials will ignore their report or not see their report as credible;1
  • Fear being subjected to disciplinary action following a report (e.g., more invasive searches and disciplinary reports);
  • Fear retaliation by perpetrators and their allies;
  • Fear being placed in isolation in the correctional facility as a protective measure or sent back to prison/jail from a community confinement facility;
  • Fear losing privileges or freedoms they have in the correctional facility;
  • Fear being further targeted by sexual predators in the facility;
  • Fear being labeled a “snitch” or a “rat” by others in the facility for breaking the “code of silence” among inmates and having to face dangerous repercussions; and
  • Fear being labeled weak, less masculine, gay or bisexual (males), and as such, be at significant risk for further sexual assault.


1 For example, inmates with mental illnesses represent one population whose reports may be viewed as lacking in credibility.



PREA Victim Services Provisions

PREA standards call for correctional agencies to work with rape crisis centers and other community victim services agencies to ensure support services for inmates/youth in detention who are sexually victimized (JDI, 2014). Specifically, prisons and jails are to:


  • During the sexual assault medical forensic examinations and investigatory interviews, make available to victims a victim advocate from a rape crisis center (if available) for emotional support, crisis intervention, information and referrals, as needed (USDOJ, 2012).
  • Give individuals housed in correctional facilities access to outside victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual assault by providing advocacy organizations’ mailing addresses and phone numbers.1 Enable reasonable communication between victims and advocates, in as confidential a manner as possible (USDOJ, 2012).

Juvenile detention facilities have very similar victim service standards (USDOJ, 2012). The key difference is a recognition that confidentiality of victim-advocate communication is subject to state laws regarding reporting of sexual abuse of minors.


Rape crisis centers are a potential resource for correctional systems in providing support for sexual assault victims in their facilities. Note, however, that PREA standards do not mandate provision of such services by rape crisis centers.


1 As per agreements between WV rape crisis centers and WV DOC, RJA and DJS, local rape crisis center hotline numbers are offered.



West Virginia’s Rape Crisis Services for Victims in Detention


Services Not Provided:

Limited resources limit the services that the local non-profit rape crisis centers provide.


  • The state’s rape crisis centers do not serve as outside reporting entities for any of the state’s correctional facilities. Any individual wishing to report an incident of sexual abuse in a facility should contact staff at that correctional facility or follow optional reporting methods.
  • Requests from inmates for support services for victimization prior to incarceration should be made to the facility’s mental health service providers. The rape crisis centers services to the jails are limited to abuse that occurs while incarcerated at the inmate’s current or prior facility.
  • Some incarcerated victims may prefer to correspond via mail. However, WV rape crisis centers generally do not have the capacity to provide support services via written letters (nor is this an effective manner to provide advocacy/immediate assistance), and the letters from the inmates may not be kept confidential. If inmates/youth in detention wish to correspond with an advocate via the mail, they can contact Just Detention International (JDI) at CA Attorney Reg. #199266, 3325 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 340,Los Angeles, CA 90010 .
  • Currently services are not provided to inmates at state (Division of Corrections) or federal correctional facilities.


Services Provided:

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (FRIS) and the state’s rape crisis centers have formalized agreements for services for inmates/youth in two types of correctional facilities in the state only: regional jails and juvenile detention centers.


  1. 1. Hotline Services to Jail Inmates

    Rape crisis centers will accept calls from inmates who are housed in jail facilities in their service areas that have current Memoranda of Agreement in place for services. The intent is to offer support to victims who have experienced sexual assault in correctional settings, with goals of reducing trauma symptoms and facilitating healing.

    • Initial Calls. Calls from inmates will be accepted by rape crisis centers during the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Limiting calls from inmates in detention to these hours increases the likelihood that trained advocates will be available at the rape crisis centers to respond to these calls. Jail inmates can independently and directly access a rape crisis center’s phone number on a toll-free and unmonitored basis (although note that other inmates and staff can see the caller place a call and the phone bank area may be video-monitored).

      As an alternative to inmates calling the rape crisis center from the public phone bank, inmates may request private space in their facility to make an unmonitored call to the rape crisis center (at no expense to the inmate). The inmate request needs to be made to the facility PREA Compliance Officer or designated staff. The PREA Compliance Officer will in turn need to schedule a call with a rape crisis center advocate. Inmates may request to arrange a call with a rape crisis center advocate without reporting the abuse to the facility.

    • Follow-up Services. If an inmate chooses, additional private follow-up calls with a rape crisis center advocate can be arranged. Generally those are limited to two private calls per inmate lasting no more than 30 minutes each. Those calls can be arranged through the rape crisis center advocate or the facility’s PREA Compliance Officer.
  2. 2. Advocacy/Support at Hospitals During the Medical Forensic Exam for Jail Inmates and Youth In Detention Facilities

    Inmates and youth in detention may have a medical forensic exam following a sexual assault if the assault occurred within 96 hours. WV rape crisis centers offer accompaniment for jail/youth victims during sexual assault medical forensic examinations if the victim requests the services. Victims can refuse to have the forensic exam; adult victims can refuse to report the assault to law enforcement, and all victims may decide whether an advocate is present.

    An advocate’s role during the exam is to:
    • Provide support, comfort and information to the victim
    • Help maintain victim’s privacy
    • Prepare inmate for return to the facility
      • Recognize risks
      • Safety planning


(This section is adapted from Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (2010) and California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (2010). It references WV Code §48-26-701.)


Consistent with rape crisis center policies and practices, communications between inmates and rape crisis center advocates during phone calls are also confidential and information won’t be shared without the inmate’s written permission except in the following circumstances:


  • The inmate shares information with an advocate that relates to disclosed/suspected abuse or neglect of a minor or vulnerable adult;
  • The inmate communicates to an advocate a clear and substantial danger of imminent injury to himself/herself or another;
  • * A court mandates the release of confidential information; and/or
  • The inmate repeatedly misuses/abuses phone support services.*

* However, a rape crisis center shouldn’t automatically release the information just because it receives a subpoena; advocates should talk to the judge first about whether it is appropriate to release specific information in a particular case to a particular party.



Correctional Facilities in West Virginia


Division of Corrections


Division of Juvenile Services


Regional Jail Authority


Federal Bureau of Prisons




For victims in detention

  • Black and Pink Resource List. This page offers a list of organizations that offer resources for inmates with a focus on LGBT issues and survival resources.
  • Just Detention International’s Hope for Healing: Information for Survivors of Sexual Assault in Detention. A self-help guide for incarcerated survivors of sexual assault.
  • Just Detention International’s Survivor Packet. This includes Hope for Healing as well as contact information for local rape crisis centers, legal aid organizations and information on survivor’s rights and how to report abuse. An electronic copy of the Survivor Packet can be obtained by contacting Leelyn Aquino, JDI’s Operations Director, at laquino@justdetention.org or by phone at 213-384-1400 ext. 110.
  • Just Detention International accepts letters at:

    Cynthia Totten, Esq.
    CA Attorney Reg. #199266
    3325 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 340
    Los Angeles, CA 90010

    Please note that JDI does not provide legal representation or counseling services.
  • The Prison Book Program’s National Prisoner Resource List provides information on places offering support, healthcare, advocacy and other information.


For those serving victims in detention


Advocacy Resources


Advocates and SARTs Partnering with Corrections Staff


Trauma-Informed Practices


Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Detention

  • Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s Understanding Rape in Prison primarily addresses male prisoners but includes information about women and juvenile populations and could generally apply to jail populations. (Note, however, that some of the research included conflicts with more recent research.)


How Sexual Abuse in Detention Compares to Sexual Assault in the Community


PREA Education for Inmate/Youth in Detention


PREA Introduction

  • JDI’s survivor testimony, survivor videos and survivor audios. Survivor stories of sexual abuse in detention and facility response
  • WV FRIS’s Sexual Assault Services Training Academy (SASTA) online course, Advocating for Victims of Sexual Assault in Correctional Settings
  • WV FRIS’s Working with Victims of Sexual Assault in West Virginia’s Correctional Settings: A Guide for Advocates (the Guide)


WV Sex Offense Laws Addressing Victimization and Victimization in Corrections


Prevalence of Sexual Abuse in Detention


WV Correctional Systems and Facilities

  • Correctional Systems’ PREA webpages — DOC PREA, RJA PREA, DJS PREA, and BOP PREA — provide access to some/all of the following: contact information for system and facility PREA compliance representatives; system PREA policies; how to report sexual abuse occurring in a facility; system policies and procedures on responding to a PREA report; annual PREA reports (incidents reported and investigated); facility PREA audit report; overall system PREA compliance status; system annual reports; statistics, and definitions of sexual abuse.




Abner, C., Browning, J. & Clark, J. (2009). Preventing and responding to corrections-based sexual abuse: A guide for community corrections professionals. Lexington, KY: American Probation and Parole Association, with the International Community Corrections Association and Pretrial Justice Institute. See https://www.appa-net.org/eweb/docs/APPA/pubs/PRCBSA.pdf


California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (2010). Survivors behind bars: Supporting survivors of prison rape and sexual assault. An update to California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (2001). Support for Survivors Training Manual. Sacramento, CA: Author. See http://www.calcasa.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Survivors-Behind-Bars.pdf


Just Detention International. (2014). Hope behind bars: An advocate’s guide to helping victims of sexual abuse in detention. Los Angeles: Author. See http://justdetention.org/resource/publication/


Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (2014). PREA MOU language and template between rape crisis centers and correctional facilities. See http://www.mcasa.org/for-professionals/prea/ for information on accessing this document.


U.S. Department of Justice (2012). 28 CFR § 115.21, 115.53, 115.353—National standards to prevent, detect, and respond to prison rape. [DOJ’s final ruling adapting the PREA standards]. See http://ojp.gov/programs/pdfs/prea_final_rule.pdf