Prison Management in the United States

PREA Background and Context:

Historically, the court system has taken a hands-off approach to prison management. Prior to the 1960’s, judicial review of correctional institutions was limited to the most severe of considerations. However, in the late 1960’s, along with the increase of judicial review upon publicly visible government matters, also came judicial oversight into The Big House.

Though The Big House prison model held significantly more humanitarian reforms than did previous United States prison models, life inside of it was still wanton with imminent danger. Offenders lived in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Many performed hard and meaningless manual labor from sun rise to sun set. Disciplinary and institutional rules were often arbitrary and it was not unusual for inmates to be beaten, killed, or raped by other inmates or even staff. In fact, even today, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (2018) estimates that 20% of all incarcerated males, and 25% of all females, have been sexually assaulted while incarcerated.

Thus, judicial review has brought to light a series of administrative concerns for America’s prison systems as they moved into the Correctional Institutions model of confinement. In recent years, one of the greatest of those concerns, prison rape culture, was addressed in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). Dee Farmer was a preoperative, transgendered female. However, as this offender still had male genitals, Farmer was housed in a low security male facility. As a result of excessive disciplinary infractions, Farmer’s custody level was increased. As such, Farmer was subsequently transferred from a lower security male institution into a higher security male penitentiary. Upon transfer, Offender Farmer claimed to have been sexually assaulted by another offender. Farmer then sued the government, arguing that correctional administrators showed deliberate indifference toward the offender’s personal safety by not considering the risk of sexual assault that being in a maximum security environment would create. Though ultimately Farmer lost the civil suit, that litigation was the impetus for the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003.

According to the National PREA Resource Center (2018), “the purpose of the act was to provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” As noted by the PREA Resource Center’s partner agency, Just Detention International (JDI), the ultimate goal of prison centered human rights advocates is to change prison rape culture. According to JDI, “many people believe that prisoner rape is just part of life behind bars – an inevitable punishment for breaking the law.” By working to change social views, however, JDI hopes “to counter these harmful attitudes, so that rape in detention is recognized for what it is: a human rights crisis that we can, and must, end” (JDI, 2018).

Many correctional administrators, however, disagree with some the requirements of the PREA standards. In these instances, administrators are not disagreeing with the need to ensure offender safety. After all, maintaining the custody and control of the offender population is the primary function of any correctional facility. Nonetheless, they argue that the building modifications needed to bring their facilities into compliance, most of which were built long before PREA was enacted, would cost tax payers millions of dollars while providing very little, if any, actual improvements to security.

There is also significant concern with meeting the overall staffing requirements, as well as the specific staffing requirements for cross-gender viewing and searching mandates. This is especially true given the national shortage of correctional officers. Lastly, there is the opposition from correctional officials themselves, especially female staff, who are assigned to opposite gender housing units. In such instances, when female staff enter the dayroom area of an opposite gender housing assignment, they must announce both their presence and their gender. Generally, this is done by shouting a version of: “Female on the floor!” Many female officers believe not only do such statements give offenders advanced warning to hide their contraband, but also that having to be identified by their gender sexually objectifies them and works to lessen offender respect of their authority as “real” correctional officers; namely, as compared to the same respect their male counterparts, who do not have to sexually identify themselves, are entitled to upon entering the same housing assignment.

Assignment Details

Referencing at least three credible sources and using proper APA format and guidelines, submit a 5-6 page paper addresses the following:

  • Summarize the facts of Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994).
    • Define prison rape culture.
    • Define “deliberate indifference” as applied in Farmer.
  • Discuss the purpose of the Prison Rape Elimination Act(PREA) (2003).
  • As discussed in the Survivors Behind Bars (2010) publication, discuss the dynamics of prisoner rape. How does this compare to the “free-world” dynamics of domestic violence and rape?
    • Discuss the compounding effect of a correctional environment on offenders suffering from rape trauma syndrome.
    • Discuss the pros and cons of having a rape counseling program in a correctional facility.
    • Discuss the application of PREA requirements from a correctional prospective, both as an administrator and as a correctional officer.

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