New Online National Resource Guide Helps Improve Responses to Sexual Abuse in Correctional Facilities

New York, NY—The Vera Institute of Justice today released a new online national resource guide to help correctional administrators improve responses to sexual abuse in community corrections and juvenile detention facilities.

When sexual assaults occur in communities, the long established best practice is to use sexual assault response teams (SARTs), which coordinate the actions of all initial responders, including law enforcement officers, health care professionals, and victim service providers. SARTs prioritize the needs of victims and hold perpetrators accountable. However, SARTs are not very common in correctional facilities, despite the fact that nearly 10 percent of former state inmates report experiencing at least one incident of sexual victimization during their most recent incarcerations. Because these crimes are often underreported, actual incidents of assault are thought to be even higher.

Partnering with Community Sexual Assault Response Teams: A Guide for Local Community Confinement and Juvenile Detention Facilities contains a planning tool for administrators of correctional facilities who want to partner with a community SART and develop a victim-centered response procedure. The online publication—available at—was supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime.

“We have long known that the problem of sexual abuse is pervasive within correctional facilities and, too often, victims are met with blame rather than dignity and respect,” said Fred Patrick, director of Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections. “This guide will help bring best practices from the community into facilities, and is an important step towards achieving our national goal of eliminating sexual abuse behind bars.”

As part of this project, Vera worked from 2011-2014 to help the adult residential and juvenile detention facilities of the Johnson County Department of Corrections in Kansas partner with their local SART and develop new response protocols. The experiences and lessons learned from that work are documented in the guide and help inform its recommendations.

By adopting the recommendations in this guide, jurisdictions can improve their compliance with the federal standards for implementing the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Vera has been involved in PREA-related work since 2006. Following Vera’s Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and the release of the Confronting Confinement report, staff assisted the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission in developing draft standards and a final report. Most recently, Vera published a guide on making PREA and victim services accessible to people with disabilities.