Published by the American Correctional Association, Corrections Today is a magazine covering criminal justice issues that affect corrections officers and correctional facilities. It regularly features articles written by NIJ staff. Subscribe or find more information.
“NIJ’s Response to the Prison Rape Elimination Act,” February 2006
The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 calls for developing national standards to prevent, detect, and reduce sexual violence in prisons; making information on sexual violence more accessible to correctional administrators; and ensuring that prisons take more responsibility for inmate safety. An NIJ-funded study will examine rape in terms of prisons’ social and sexual climate. NIJ has also solicited research on prevention, risk assessment, and the medical-psychological impact. This article gives a detailed description of the inmate culture study and outlines four more studies on prevention and risk assessment. It also discusses what is being done to protect the privacy of the inmates participating in research studies.
The article is available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/213137.pdf.
“No More ‘Cell’ Phones,” April 2006
The smaller cell phones get, the easier it is to smuggle them inside correctional facilities. Cell phones enable inmates to sustain criminal activities, harass victims, or transmit photographs of supposedly secure information. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, NIJ, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren have collaborated to evaluate the situation and help develop a technological solution that will eliminate or, at the very least, reduce this growing problem. To date, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has identified four possible technological approaches: locate and confiscate the cell phones, overpower or “jam” the signal with a stronger signal, prevent the phone from detecting a signal, also called “spoofing,” or intercept the signal. This article briefly describes the merits and drawbacks of each solution and what future research and steps will cover.
The article is available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/214920.pdf.
“Duress Systems in Corrections Facilities,” June 2006
NIJ and the U.S. Department of Defense worked together on the development of duress systems, such as the Staff Alarm and Inmate Tracking program that operates at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in Charleston, South Carolina. A duress system allows corrections officers to signal for a rapid and coordinated response during life-threatening situations through the push of a portable or mounted button. This article explains the types of duress systems—panic button alarm, identification alarm, and identification/location alarm—and their limitations. It also identifies various factors administrators should consider when choosing a system. The article is based on NIJ’s In Short: Duress Systems in Corrections Facilities (NCJ 205836).
The article is available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/214921.pdf.
“Brief Mental Health Screening for Corrections Intake,” August 2006
Correctional administrators need to be able to identify mentally ill detainees, who can become disruptive and/or a threat to themselves and others. Unfortunately, current mental health screens are inconsistent, expensive, time-consuming, and unreliable. Recently, NIJ funded the development of a standardized mental health screen that is brief, economical, and effective, and can be administered with little training at detainee intake. Researchers created two screens: the Correctional Mental Health Screen and the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen. Both are free, take less than 5 minutes, and detect various levels of mental illness. The authors take an in-depth look at how the researchers designed and validated each screening questionnaire and offer suggestions from existing research on how to improve and ensure the tools’ accuracy.
The article is available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/215592.pdf.