Clem Information Strategies works where public policy, communications, and outreach intersect.

Connie Clem, Principal, connie at
@ConnieInfo | | 303.242.6278
Niwot, Colorado, USA

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Now that the #MeToo meme is getting around, sexual misconduct and abuse of power are open topics of discussion toward long-needed social change.

The surprise to many is that the corrections field is so far ahead on confronting a culture of abuse and establishing a comprehensive methodology for reducing it.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was signed into law in September 2003. Fourteen years later, prisons and jails have information and guidance that make secure facilities safer for those who are confined. Topics run the gamut from prevention, screening, training, incident reporting, and response and investigation to discipline, victim assistance, agency-level reporting, and audits.

Incident reporting is a known hurdle in broader society. The reasons why victims do not report are legion. As a result, perpetrators often have continued to harm more victims.

Looking to the corrections model, we find the following.

Reporting – Prisons and Jails
§ 115.51 Inmate reporting
(a) The agency shall provide multiple internal ways for inmates to privately report sexual abuse and sexual harassment, retaliation by other inmates or staff for reporting sexual abuse and sexual harassment, and staff neglect or violation of responsibilities that may have contributed to such incidents.
(b) The agency shall also provide at least one way for inmates to report 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. Inmates detained solely for civil immigration purposes shall be provided information on how to contact relevant consular officials and relevant officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
(c) Staff shall accept reports made verbally, in writing, anonymously, and from third parties and shall promptly document any verbal reports.
(d) The agency shall provide a method for staff to privately report sexual abuse and sexual harassment of inmates.

What if victims in civilian society had a secure way to report incidents and could also keep some control over what happens next? Would that increase reporting and help create a permanent cultural change? Perhaps each state could create its own website/phone center for this purpose.

A reporting system could collect incident data plus the victim’s preferences for actions taken in response to the report.

  • Victim’s name – with 100% anonymity ensured; coded for privacy in any system reports
  • Incident details – perpetrator name if known; location of incident(s); nature of assault/intrusion; place of employment (if a workplace incident)
  • Action requested by victim:
    • Take no action, but make my anonymized data accessible for comparison by law enforcement with other reported incidents
    • Take no action now, but contact me if you need my testimony in a future legal action
    • Take no action now, but ask me later if I’m willing to testify
    • Release my incident report to law enforcement/prosecutor (anonymized or with ID)
    • Release my incident report to my place of employment (anonymized or with ID)
    • Contact me to discuss how I can protect myself from future harassment/assault

A discussion of policy-level action on this topic can be found at

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It’s a people business

June 14, 2017

When it comes to jail and correctional work, the demands made of people could hardly be more intense. Correctional officers (they are not “guards,” by the way) have to be 100% safety-aware and 100% open to the idea that the person they’re interacting with is a human being, too. They operate within these two very […]

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Don’t take my word for it

March 28, 2017

Jails matter! But don’t take my word for it. Talk with your local public safety leaders. Check out agency websites. If you know someone who works in a jail or has spent time in one as a volunteer or a detainee, see what they can tell you. Find out who is in your city or […]

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Industries examined?

October 7, 2016

Recently inmate industries made the news on a public radio talk program:  “The National Prison Strike (According To Prisoners),” September 28, 2016, On Point, WBUR, Boston, Massachusetts. I applaud fresh attention given to jails and prisons, so this was good to hear. However, the program seemed to accept at face value the comments of the […]

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Who’s Responsible?

September 29, 2015

Lately we’re seeing more attention to interactions between corrections/law enforcement personnel and community members, possible suspects, detainees, and inmates. This is a good thing—because accountability is important, and also because the scrutiny is helping the public to learn more about patrol work and jails. A big question is, how responsible is an agency leader for […]

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Jail Standards, Classification, and Safety

September 17, 2015

Last week I sat in on a meeting of jail inspection agency leaders from around the United States. These people work in state government, and their mission is to ensure safety and security in the jails they work with. They or their staff members visit each local facility statewide to check whether these jails meet […]

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What’s the difference between prison and jail?

November 3, 2013

You know how you’re watching the news, and the reporter solemnly says a criminal will be spending his or her life in jail, or will serve a 20-year jail sentence, or is languishing in prison waiting for trial? It’s not going to happen. Let me clear this up. In the United States, we often encounter […]

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Infographic – social media + emergency response

June 10, 2013

Must share this. From USF Master of Public Admin program. University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration

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