Legal issues only a starting point in handling sexual assault in corrections
- Written by Amy Dinsmore
- March 22 2016
Turning to legal solutions, be they PREA or various forms of litigation, can serve as an ideal starting point for corrections organizations struggling with issues relating to sexual assault. However, legal practices alone are not enough to eradicate instances of sexual assault or ensure that you get to the truth well enough to provide adequate protection. Instead, corrections leaders must combine effective policy and training management with cultural advances to maximize the potential benefits of effective legal practices.
Litigation can bring meaningful advances
A recent Juvenile Justice Information Exchange report explained that litigation in Ohio has helped establish better operations at state juvenile detention centers, as issues with sexual assault, among other problems, had led to major problems in the state in the past.
The news source explained that litigation is a long, complex process, but it often does drive the results that correctional facilities need. In particular, it draws attention to the scale of problems they are facing and helps them develop the policies they need to prevent future issues. However, litigation doesn’t solve everything. Instead, administrators should work to exceed the kind of baseline requirements established in legal documents and establish best practices that go beyond this starting point. In Ohio’s case, litigation was a catalyst that led to improvements that exceed what was set forth by the legal situation alone.
Even PREA isn’t perfect
PREA gets a great deal of attention for its role in protecting inmates against sexual assault, but a recent report from The Corrections Connection explained that PREA also has limitations, particularly in situations in which a staff member may have been legitimately assaulted by an inmate, but have no means of getting help because PREA automatically designates prison staff as the perpetrator. This emphasizes the need to add a layer of governance, training and even policy measures that account for the inherent limitations in laws.
Using training and policy management to exceed legal basics
Preparing your officers to understand the limitations of the law and be able to overcome them hinges on first ensuring they have a clear understanding of the legal issues that impact their work. Training and policy management is critical here, as policies set the legal expectations within your organization and training highlights how those guidelines play out in real-world scenarios. Using document management software can empower corrections organizations to create the content they need and manage it more effectively through digital tools. This lets them update their operations more efficiently, keeping pace with the complex legal and operational demands they face.