You could face harassment and violence in prison. These are more common in prisons than outside. But you do not have to be scared of going to prison. Most incarcerated people do not face extreme harassment or violence.
Does everyone face harassment and violence in prison?
No. Most people do not face harassment and violence in prison. But incarcerated people experience these at a much higher rate than people outside. You are more likely to face these issues in prison.
The Journal of Correctional Health Care studied this issue. They found that 19% of prisoners said that another person had assaulted them in prison. Another 21% said prison staff had assaulted them in prison.
That means that around one-fifth of prisoners said that they had been assaulted at some point. This is a worrisome number. But it is not a majority of people who go to prison.
What do prisons do to protect prisoners?
Prison officials say that it is impossible to stop violence and harassment altogether. However, there are several ways that prisons work to reduce these problems.
- Design. Modern prisons are designed to reduce “blind spots.” These are areas that are hard for guards or cameras to see.
- Cell assignments. Prison staff can look at a person’s history to decide the safest place for them to live. They can consider things like a person’s history or if they are in a gang.
- Training. Prisons can train officers to better control violence. Practices like deescalation can reduce violence between incarcerated individuals. But it can also reduce violence between staff and incarcerated individuals.
What can you do if you are being harassed or assaulted?
It depends. The answer is different depending on who hurt you. If another prisoner is harming you, you can talk to prison officials. You can talk to a guard or other staff member you trust directly.
If you are not comfortable with that, you can call the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) hotline at 1-833-362-7732. This number is set up for sexual assault, but they might still be able to help you if the harassment or assault is not sexual in nature. The number is supposed to be anonymous. But you should assume that none of your phone calls in prison are truly private.
You will need to handle it differently if it is a staff member that is committing harassment or violence in prison. If you are in federal prison, you can contact the Office of Inspector General (OIG) by calling (202) 514-3435. You can also write them a letter. Send your letter to the following address:
Office of Inspector General
Deptartment of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
If you are in state prison or local jail, you will need to find your state’s version of the OIG. You should be able to reach them by phone or by mail.
However, you should know that while retaliation is illegal, it does still happen. Other prisoners or even staff may be angry if you report them to an authority. This is an unfortunate problem for you if you face harassment or violence in prison.
You might face harassment or violence in prison. It is more common in prison than outside of it. However, the majority of prisoners do not face these issues. Violence and harassment might come from other prisoners. It might also come from staff. You can report these incidents to authorities. But you might not want to.