How Do You Report Harassment and Violence in Prison?
There are a few ways that you can report harassment and violence in prison. How you report it depends on who did the harassment and violence. And, even if you can, you may not always want to report it.
Are violence and harassment common in prison?
Violence and harassment are more common in prison than they are outside of it. One study found that 19% of prisoners said they faced violence from another incarcerated person. And 21% said that they faced violence from prison officials and staff.
Even though violence and harassment occur, people do not always report it in prison. This is because they may worry about retaliation from others. Even though retaliation from others violates prison rules and retaliation from officials and staff violates federal law, it still happens.
How do you report violence or harassment from another incarcerated person?
If another person in prison hurts you, you may want to report it. You have a few ways that you can do that.
- Talk to staff. If you know a staff member that you trust, you can talk to them privately. This could be a CO, or it could be someone like a nurse or chaplain. They may be able to help you.
- Call the PREA hotline. The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) set up a hotline that you can use. You can call it at 1-833-362-7732. This is an anonymous phone call, but your conversations might still be monitored if you are calling from within the prison.
- Use the complaint system. Most prison systems have their own internal system for complaints. This is how they prefer to handle in-prison issues. However, this process usually involves paperwork. Filing a complaint against another incarcerated person will go into a record. You may not want your name attached to a complaint against another person in prison.
How can you report violence or harassment from prison staff?
If prison staff harm you, the process is different. You should assume that prison officials and staff might look out for each other. Therefore, it might not be a good idea to file a complaint with prison itself. While certain retaliation is illegal, it does still happen.
You have a few other ways that you can report violence or harassment from prison staff, too.
- Talk to your lawyer. If you have a lawyer, your conversations should be private. You can tell your lawyer what is happening to you. They can give you advice on what to do next.
- Call the PREA hotline. This hotline is set up mainly for sexual abuse. But they may be able to help you with other kinds of abuse as well. Their hotline number is 1-833-362-7732. This phone call should be anonymous. But you should never assume that you have full privacy in prison.
- Contact the DOJ’s OIG or a similar office from your state. The DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) oversees federal agencies. Their job is to look into abuse and other issues with those agencies. Each state has a similar office. You can call the DOJ OIG at (202) 514-3435. If you do not feel safe talking on the phone about it, you can write a letter. Mail your letter to the following address:
Office of Inspector General,
Department of Justice.
950 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
You have a few ways to report violence and harassment in prison. These issues are more common in prison than on the outside. There are different ways to report these issues depending on who hurt you. But you want to be careful with how you report them.