Responding to The Prison Rape Elimination Act: A Study of Violence In California Correctional Facilities

Principal Investigators: Valerie Jenness, Ph.D. and Cheryl Maxson, Ph.D. , University of California, Irvine

This research is designed to address the main objective of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003—to reduce prison rape in the U.S. and to respond to it more effectively when it does occur. To contribute to larger efforts along these lines, the main objective of the proposed project is to undertake empirical research designed to understand the parameters of the problem of sexual assault in particular and violence more generally in California correctional facilities. The larger goal is to meet this objective in a way that facilitates the creation and evaluation of a viable intervention designed to respond to sexual assault in correctional facilities and maximize the probability of it being reported by inmates and correctional personnel when it does occur. In short, the value of this research lies in its ability to provide empirical findings that can guide the development of viable policy and programmatic interventions designed to respond to sexual assault in both youth and adult correctional facilities in California.

Consistent with the larger goals of the PREA, the proposed research is best described as a “needs assessment” designed to understand the parameters of sexual assault and other types of violence in California correctional facilities. Unlike the wide-ranging scope of the PREA, this research is designed to collect data on violence in general and inmate-on-inmate sexual assault in particular in correctional facilities housing adult and juvenile male inmates in California. Given how little is known about the parameters of sexual assault in correctional facilities in California, this research is designed to identify and understand the demographic, attitudinal, and organizational factors that facilitate and hinder prison violence, especially sexual assault, and whether or not incidents get reported to correctional personnel. We seek to answer two interrelated questions: How often, under what conditions, and to whom and by whom do sexual assaults occur? What factors influence the probability of violence, including sexual assault, occurring and being reported?

To address these questions, we plan to collect data on key features of the facilities’ policies, physical structure, administration and staff, inmates and wards, and incidents of violence, including sexual assault. The goal is to identify factors and conditions that increase the probability of assault—sexual and otherwise—occurring under specific conditions and involving specific types of inmates. Doing so will ultimately inform a larger discussion about what interventions are most viable in terms of reducing sexual assault and encouraging reporting when it does occur.

Parolees with Mental Disorder: Toward Evidence-Based Practice

Principal Investigators: Jennifer L. Skeem, Ph.D. and Jennifer Eno Louden, M.A., University of California, Irvine

Persons with mental disorder are vastly overrepresented in parole populations. Relative to their counterparts without mental disorder, these parolees are twice as likely to fail community supervision. In fact, in California, parolees have the highest likelihood of supervision failure in the nation. To date, little research has addressed this issue.

The goal of the proposed research is to improve understanding of risk of parole failure for California parolees with mental disorder, determine how well extant policies and procedures are addressing the problem, and build upon existing procedures and programs to improve the system. The goals and method of three related studies designed to address two essential questions are outlined below.

Question 1: How serious is the problem? We are accessing existing databases to (a) describe the prevalence of identified mental disorder among California parolees, and (b) compare parolees with- and without- mental disorder in their rates of return to prison for a technical violation vs. new offense.

Question 2: What is the problem? We will complete three steps to identify risk factors for technical violations and new crimes for parolees with mental disorder. First, we will conduct four focus group discussions with parolees with mental disorder and (separately) with their parole agents to identify any needs related to reoffending that are specific to these parolees. Second, we will add any mental disorder-specific needs that we identify through focus groups to the Levels of Services, Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI), a well-validated risk assessment and case management tool. We will administer this supplemented LS/CMI to parolees with identified acute mental disorder (EOP, n=150), identified stable mental disorder (CCCMS, n=150), and no identified mental disorder (n=100). We will compare the three groups’ pattern of scores on the supplemented LS/CMI to determine which risk factors and needs are particularly prevalent among those with mental disorder. This will help to identify “the problem” that underlies these individuals’ relatively high rates of return to prison.

Third, for these 400 participants, we will obtain rates of return to prison for new crimes or technical violations at 12-months. This will allow us to identify whether and how the best predictors of return to prison differ those with- and without- mental disorder. Ideally, supervision and rehabilitation efforts would focus on changeable risk factors for return to prison for parolees with mental disorder.

In summary, this stage-wise study is designed to provide an understanding of the frequency, severity, and nature of the problem of supervision failure for parolees with mental disorder. Its goal is to identify and retain what the California system does well, and build areas of weakness into areas of strength. The larger goal is to inform evidence-based practice for these parolees.


Improving Services for Mentally Ill Juvenile Offenders

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Cauffman, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine

Because the first days and weeks in an institutional setting are a critical period in which mental health problems can arise or be exacerbated, strategies that promote a smooth transition into institutional placement may allow for more effective treatment and more positive outcomes. To address such issues, we are interviewing 275 youths within 48 hours of their arrival to the California Youth Authority, with four weekly follow-ups and two subsequent monthly follow- ups. At each interview, we assess mental health symptoms, as well as environmental, behavioral, and attitudinal measures. An improved understanding of the ways that mental health, treatment programs, and service perceptions interact and evolve in the initial months of confinement will provide valuable guidance for the design of improved programs and methods for easing youths through this transition and addressing their evolving mental health needs.

Agnes Goes to Prison: Sexual Assault and the “Olympics of Gender Authenticity” Among Transgender Inmates in California’s Prisons

Valerie Jenness, Ph.D.
Presented at the Gender Matters Symposium
The University of California, Davis
April 23, 2010

ppt_icon_32x32 Agnes Goes to Prison: Sexual Assault and the “Olympics of Gender Authenticity” Among Transgender Inmates in California’s Prisons

The Effect of Therapeutic Community on Time to First Re-Arrest: A Survival Analysis

Eric L. Jensen and Stephanie L. Kane, University of Idaho, Moscow
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 49:200-209, 2010