It is true that different kinds of violence and harassment do happen in prison. But they aren’t a certainty. If you go to prison, you may experience these things. However, statistically, it is still unlikely.
Will you be subject to violence and harassment in prison?
You may be the victim of violence or harassment in prison. Nearly 20% of men in prisons said they faced violence from other incarcerated people. And 21% said they experienced it from prison guards. That means that roughly one out of every five men experience these issues in prison.
While this rate is high, it also means that 80% of men do not experience these issues in prison. That is the large majority of people who go to prison.
What kinds of violence and harassment can happen to you in prison?
You can experience any kind of violence or harassment in prison. But some issues are more common than others.
- Physical violence with other prison residents. Fights, intimidation and bullying all take place in prison. These incidents can happen for any reason.
- Sexual assault. Rape and other sexual assault are more common in prison than outside of it. One study found that as many as 14% of incarcerated people experience sexual assault in prison. Of those, a study estimates that prison staff commits more than half (54%) of these assaults. Women and especially LGBTQ+ people face higher rates of sexual assault.
- Abuse from prison staff. Guards in prison sometimes use excessive force. One study showed that 50% of these assaults caused an injury.
How do you report violence and harassment?
There are different ways to report violence and harassment in prison. The right way to do it depends on who hurt you. It also matters what type of assault it is and where it happened.
You can always use the facility’s internal process. Many prisons require the use of the in-prison administrative process. But this may not work for you. If a staff member is who hurt you, you may not want to make a complaint internally, though you may have to.
- Sexual abuse. The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) created a number of tools to help limit sexual abuse. One of those is the PREA Hotline at 877-995-5247. This is a toll-free number you can use to report sexual abuse in any facility. The calls are not recorded and you can remain anonymous.
- Physical violence from another prison resident. Usually, you will need to report violence from another resident to an administrator. Most prisons have an internal process for this.
- Physical violence from staff in federal prison. You can report abuse in federal prison to the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). They have an online “hotline” form. You won’t be able to access this while you are in prison. But you can get someone to help you. You can also write them a letter at: Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20530-0001.
- Physical violence from staff in state prison. Your state DOC will have its own OIG. They should have a number you can call or an address you can write to. You can get your state OIG’s information from this list online. You may need to ask someone with internet access to help you retrieve this information.
Different kinds of violence and harassment are more common in prison than on the outside. You may face them during your time. These issue can come from other prison residents or from staff. You have ways to report these issues. But you may not always want to.