Advocating for confidentiality and trauma informed care in detention facilities

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Claudia Estrada, Advocacy Manager at RCS Fresno

“It’s difficult to get on the phone and disclose everything that they’re going through […]it does affect the way we’re providing services and how comfortable they are with receiving those services,” stated Claudia Estrada, Advocacy Manager at Rape Counseling Services of Fresno.

 

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are some of the first correctional facilities to ensure that survivors could make confidential, non-recorded calls to their local rape crisis center. As the movement to serve survivors in detention continues, leaders consistently advocate for free, confidential, and non-recorded calls in county jails. Claudia Estrada and Stephanie Jones at RCS Fresno spoke with CALCASA about the challenges they’ve experienced working as advocates in detention settings, the importance of building relationships with correctional officials to advocate for institutional change, and their hopes for a paradigm shift that holds all systems accountable for the prevention of sexual abuse and harassment in correctional facilities.

Preserving Confidentiality 

A major part of providing trauma informed care is preserving confidentiality. This includes:

  • Ensuring that survivors have the ability to  privately and freely share their experiences via hotline call and letter correspondence without interference from correctional staff.
  • Stephanie Jones, KA Advocate at RCS Fresno

    Establishing a physical space where survivors feel comfortable sharing their experiences during in person counseling session(s) and support groups.

“The calls for Fresno county jail are being recorded so a lot of the times when we’re speaking with survivors, you can tell that they don’t want to disclose certain things. Sometimes they’ll ask a question that is unrelated to sexual assault so we let them know what our line is for and they’ll disconnect.”  

Ensuring that survivors in county jails have access to a free, confidential, and a non-recorded phone line requires that advocates inform their facilities about the importance of confidentiality and trauma-informed care. Facilities can contact their phone company to make these calls possible. 

Building and Sustaining Relationships

When making suggestions related to trauma-informed care, it’s helpful to have strong relationships with your facilities.  

To do this work effectively, Claudia provides a few pointers:

Find that contact person and keep open communication with them. 

“It can be challenging or frustrating when you don’t get responses. Once you meet that person and you have that first in-person meeting, it feels like they have more responsibility to respond afterward.”

Maintain their relationships.

“Now I get a response right away! Once you have that contact person, keep staying in contact. Don’t wait until something comes up to contact them. Even if it’s just say ‘How are things going and do you have any referrals for us?’”

A fundamentally different approach is needed across systems in order to advocate for survivors in correctional facilities. As no two incidents of sexual assault are the same, advocates are well-adapted to address each case as it is presented and knowingly push aside any standing assumptions. As Stephanie explains, ‘Sexual assault is not part of the penalty. Just because they’ve done something that society has marked as a crime, does not mean that harm should be done to them.” 

Webinars for advocates and survivors in detention:

 

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