DOJ estimates that hundreds of thousands of incidents of sexual abuse and sexual harassment occur every year in prisons and jails across the country.
Certain historically marginalized groups are statistically more likely to experience abuse in prison, though this violence occurs regardless of
gender identity, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, and socioeconomic status.
While the prevalence of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in prisons and jails is widespread, the vast majority of incidents go unreported, with estimates of incarcerated victims’ willingness to report their victimization below that of victims not behind bars.
Sexual abuse is already one of the most underreported violent crimes in the U.S., and confinement settings create additional barriers for victims to report the sexual abuse or sexual harassment experience and/or seek services.
For instance, while victims often fear retaliation from their abusers if they decide to report, the balance of power between inmates and corrections staff, as well as factors like proximity to other inmates, are additional concerns for victims in confinement facilities.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Standards, released in 2012, include requirements that are designed to help confinement agencies prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
PREA Standard 11 5. 51 requires every confinement agency to provide at least one way for inmates to report sexual abuse or harassment to a public or private entity or office that is not part of the agency, and that is able to receive and immediately forward inmate reports of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to agency officials, allowing the inmate to remain anonymous upon request.
PREA Standard 11 5. 53 requires confinement facilities to provide inmates with access to outside victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual abuse.
The full text of the PREA Standards can be found on the PREA Resource Center website.
While these Standards apply to all federal, state, and local confinement facilities (including jails, prisons, police lockups, juvenile facilities, and community confinement facilities), many confinement agencies and facilities across the country, especially those in remote and rural areas, have struggled to maintain compliance with Standards 11 5. 51 and 11 5. 5 3. Such agencies and facilities report that needed victim support services are often scarce or non-existent, and typically under-resourced.
In addition, it can also be challenging for confinement agencies and facilities to identify a separate entity or office that has the capacity to receive and immediately forward inmate reports of sexual abuse and harassment to confinement agency officials while allowing inmates to remain anonymous upon request.
As a result, the goal of the National Service Line for Incarcerated Survivors of Sexual Abuse Initiative (Initiative) is to determine if and how a National Sexual Abuse Service Line (Service Line) could assist correctional agencies and facilities across the nation to achieve and maintain compliance with PREA Standards 11 5. 51 and 11 5. 5 3. This Initiative is being supported through a partnership between OVW and the Office for Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which provided the funding for this Initiative.
The partnership is designed to combine BJA’s PREA implementation expertise with OVW’s broad knowledge of sexual assault services.
The Initiative demonstrates both offices’ shared commitment of ensuring that sexual abuse and sexual harassment victims in detention have access to quality support services as well as a mechanism for reporting abuse and harassment.
The Service Line Initiative is being administered as a two-phase project including a planning phase followed by an implementation phase.
This solicitation is seeking applications for Phase One - the planning phase - which will include a national scan of practices related to efforts to comply with PREA Standards 11 5. 51 and 11 5. 53, identification of common service gaps and needs, and guidance from subject matter experts on what a national service line would require to be responsive to both the PREA Standards and the unique needs of incarcerated victims.
The goal of Phase One is two-fold:
1) to determine if and how a Service Line could ensure compliance with the complementary yet distinct requirements of PREA Standards 11 5. 51 and 11 5. 53; and 2) to develop a comprehensive plan for the design and implementation of a Service Line for incarcerated victims of sexual abuse.
Phase Two - the implementation phase - will occur after Phase One is completed and will focus on using the comprehensive plan developed in the first phase to guide the Service Line’s implementation.
It is anticipated that Phase Two will be directed and administered by OVW and BJA, and that it will be funded competitively.
Phase Two is dependent upon the availability of sufficient PREA appropriations in future fiscal years.
the organization funded to develop the comprehensive plan in Phase One of the Initiative will not be eligible to receive funding to implement the plan under Phase Two.
This restriction may apply to formal partners as well, depending on their involvement in the project.
For more information on this restriction, see the Letters of Support section.