Are You Protected from Sexual Assault and Harassment in Prison?

Are You Protected from Sexual Assault and Harassment in Prison?

Yes. If someone sexually assaults you, they commit a crime. That’s true in prison as well. So, if you’re sexually assaulted in prison, you can turn to the legal system for help. Likewise, while not all forms of sexual harassment are illegal, sexual harassment in prison can form the basis of a lawsuit as well. If someone sexually assaults you or a loved one in prison, you should know what to do next.

What rights do you have that protect you against sexual assault and harassment in prison?

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual abuse. This means prison officials should aim to stop all sexual assaults, harassment and advances. You should not have to tolerate sexual pressure from anyone. This is true whether it’s another prisoner or BOP staff.

What information do you need to report sexual assault and harassment in prison?

If you need to report a sexual assault in prison, you need as much information as possible. Before filing a complaint, gather your details. The following information is a good place to start:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Any names of prisoners involved
  • The names of prison officials involved
  • Names of any others involved
  • Names of witnesses

Include this information in your complaint. The more information you give, the easier an investigation should be.

sexual harassment in prison note-taking image
Image courtesy of Ono Kosuki from Pexels.

To protect your rights, it’s important to report violations as soon as possible. If there is a prison official you trust, you can also report the assault or harassment to them. Because formal complaints take time, this may be a quicker path to safety in the short term. But not everyone in prison has a staff member they trust.

If you do not have a staff member you trust, you still have options. One option is to write to the Office of Inspector General. Send your written complaint to this address:

U.S. Department of Justice

Office of the Inspector General

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

You can also use the prison’s administrative process. This process allows prisoners to file a grievance. It is a four-step paperwork process. You can only start the administrative process for yourself. You may even have to complete the administrative process before you can file a lawsuit in court.

Federal officials should keep all complaints you make confidential. You should not fear retribution for reporting sexual assault.

Can you report a sexual assault or sexual harassment for someone else?

You also may want to report a sexual assault or harassment against another prisoner in prison. In that case, there is a different process, but you’ll need the same information. You’ll put that information in a letter but will send it to a different place.

If you want to report the abuse of a prisoner by a prisoner, send it to this address:

Federal Bureau of Prisons

National PREA Coordinator

Reentry Services Division

400 First St NW, Room 4027

Washington, DC 20534

If you want to report the abuse of a prisoner by a prison official, send it to this address: 

Federal Bureau of Prisons 

Office of Internal Affairs 

320 First St NW, Room 600 

Washington, DC 20534

The Takeaway:

You should be safe from sexual assault and harassment in prison. No matter how you report it, the BOP should take all reports of sexual assault in prison seriously.

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