California is leading the way in serving survivors in detention facilities

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California provides basic funding to rape crisis centers (RCCs) and technical assistance providers so that they can adequately provide victim services to survivors in detention, instead of correctional facilities. 

California Rape Crisis Centers have been responding to sexual harassment and violence in our communities for decades. Trauma informed care, crisis intervention, and healing can and should be extended to survivors living behind bars. In fact, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) states that incarcerated survivors must receive the same level of care as survivors in the community. 

David Gerhartz, a PREA advocate at San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services shares his insight: “The [PREA] law has been around since 2003, but just recently has been enforced regularly. California was the first to really start these changes, so we are the ‘fishbowl’ to see what works best and what needs to be changed.” 

Rape Crisis Centers provide a bounty of resources to members in our community. By including those in detention facilities, we acknowledge that survivors in these facilities are a part of our communities. They have loved ones, they are interwoven within our social fabric, they affect our economic structures, they are people experiencing harm.  “This administration and future leaders [need to] understand [that] we can’t do this alone and[communities] need these types of services to help families and individuals cope and survive their assault and to live a better life. Without these non-profits, we would have a much larger problem and see a much darker landscape for many.”

ADVOCATE TO ADVOCATE

Getting to know your facility

Whether it’s a college campus or a nearby church,“Every institution has their own unique protocol to enter facilities,” shares David. So what can advocates do to learn more about each facility? 

  • Attend the facility volunteer training, but remember your role as a victim advocate! Unlike most advocates, you’re not a mandated reporter.
  • Meet with the men’s advisory council, women’s advisory council, or inmate advisory council to better understand the culture of the facility and help spread knowledge of your services through trusted word of mouth. All California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities have these councils and they are similar to a student council. Speak to your PREA compliance manager or coordinator about attending one of their meetings.
  • Maintain constant communication with your point of contact.“Somewhere at some time, [survivors] will need your services and keeping up those partnerships makes it easier to work within those institutions.”

When your client gets transferred to a different facility

David presents another unique challenge to working in detention: “many of the inmates and detainees get moved around from housing units [and] to outside facilities often.” So what can advocates do to ensure their clients continue to receive the same level of care and services?

  • Always use the inmate locator to locate your client before responding to their letters and attending in-person sessions. Transfers to other facilities can occur any time and without any notice. 
  • In the event that your client is transferred or will be transferred in the near future, ask them  if they’d like to continue receiving services.
  • If yes, have your client sign a release of information (ROI) where they consent to a warm hand to the RCC in their new service area. 
  • Contact the RCC in their service area to inform them of their new client. (CALCASA/JDI has a complete list of RCCs that provide services to survivors at each CDCR facility. Reach out to us as needed). 

Drop-in services

Our goal as victim advocates is to provide the same level of care to  survivors in detention as we do to survivors in the community. David, a PREA Advocate at San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services explains that part of this includes “being allowed to do one-on-one counseling.” Creating a set day and time for clients to meet with you in-person, can mirror the drop-in services that RCCs often provide in our communities. Instead of clients coming to you, you’re coming to them!

David emphasizes how Rape Crisis Centers are filling a huge gap when it comes to preventing and intervening in sexual violence in correctional facilities and immigration detention facilities. RCCs have consistently adapted and tailored services for each survivor they meet and are well positioned to serve survivors in the community and in detention settings.  

Although California continues to support its programs, we know that sexual violence is not bound by physical boundaries and in order to effectively address and eradicate it, we will need the support from our current administration and future leaders and allies within the anti-sexual violence movement. inside and outside of RCCs. 

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