Preventing and Reducing Prison Violence

The Rate of Violence in Prisons

The rate of violence in prisons has skyrocketed over the past few years. Among the most common forms of violence are assaults on staff, violence by inmates against each other, and sexual assault.

The Impact on Incarcerated Individuals and the Rehabilitation Process

The violence in prisons is not only a threat to the safety of incarcerated individuals but also a disruption to the rehabilitation process and reentry services. In addition, the presence of violent inmates in prisons can lead to negative behavioral consequences, including incarceration-related substance abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and crime.

Factors Contributing to Prison Violence

A number of factors contribute to prison violence, including gang activity, reentry barriers, and overcrowding. These factors are often difficult to control and are exacerbated by the lack of resources, which can limit the ability to effectively prevent or reduce violence.

Strategies for Violence Prevention

Identifying risk groups and developing strategies for addressing those risks can improve the prevention of violence. For example, training and education on the nature of interpersonal violence, how to assess for potential perpetrators, the role of mental health in reducing the impact of violence, and how to provide effective treatment for violent offenders can help reduce the likelihood that inmates will engage in behaviors that contribute to or result in violence.

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Initiatives

Reducing the prevalence of violence is a priority for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The department has been implementing several strategies to reduce the number of violent incidents in prisons. These include data-driven strategies tailored to facilities and inmates, training of staff and incarcerated individuals on violence reduction, and engagement with employees and advisory committees on security and safety issues.

Investing in Care and Support Programs

In addition, the department has invested in programs to increase the quality of care provided to incarcerated people and to reduce their exposure to violence. These programs include trauma-informed training of staff, assessing incarcerated people to identify those most at risk for victimization, and expansion of correctional healthcare to include more robust mental health and trauma-informed services.

Addressing the Lack of Effective Treatment and Rehabilitation Services

A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico in 2015 interviewed recently incarcerated people about their experiences with violence behind bars. They found that, while most people in prison have a history of trauma, they often do not receive effective treatment or rehabilitation services to address the trauma. This can create a "legacy of victimization" that puts them at risk for substance use, PTSD, and aggressive behavior.

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