The Leon County Jail officials say they’re meeting federal standards in fighting sexual assault behind bars. The Sheriff’s Office has been working on attaining certification for the past year.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office says inmates made six allegations of sexual abuse at the jail last year. Staff investigated all of the allegations, and two were unsubstantiated, with insufficient evidence to prove a crime had been committed. Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Grady Jordan says in the other four instances, inmates with mental illness made accusations that were unrealistic or impossible.
“We were able to determine that the individual in question, nothing actually happened according to what they’re saying, because they’re saying that they were harassed or some type of victim of an individual that they saw on television or something to that effect,” he said.
Inmates can report an assault to any staff member, or call third party hotlines and support groups. Jordan says once an inmate makes an allegation, steps are taken to protect them from their alleged aggressor.
“Once the allegation is made, those inmates are separated. And they will never, well I say never and I can’t say never, they are not to be in contact with one another the duration of their stay or any subsequent stay,” he said.
Now, the Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, is taking additional steps to curb sexual violence at the facility. The jail’s correctional officers, medical staff and inmates all undergo training on reporting and handling abuse. For the inmates, that training starts immediately, when they are booked into the jail. Sheriff Mike Wood says the inmates are also interviewed about risk factors, to minimize any possible violence.
“And they continue that process, all the way up until we get to classification, when we determine where in our jail an inmate is going to be. A classifications officers also are PREA certified to make sure that if an inmate has a history, or there’s a propensity for that,” he said.
The certification is called PREA , short for the “prison rape elimination act”. Congress passed the measure in 2003, to set standards for federal, state, and local correctional facilities. Sheriff Mike Wood says adhering to the PREA standards will help the inmates, and the community at large.
“You know our inmates, by and large are the family of the people in this community. So once again, by statute and by what we feel like is our moral responsibility for these inmates, we want to demonstrate that we are taking the best care of our inmates possible,” he said.
The Leon County Jail is one of 14 facilities in Florida to meet the PREA standards.