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RSAT Forum > Monthly Discussion > West Virginia Needs Help View modes: 
pbarbour - 9/11/2013 11:37:15 AM
West Virginia Needs Help
 With Program Specialist Amanda McGrew's permission I am posting this email communication that went out to faculty on 9/10. The forum seems to be an ideal way to provide help and suggestions on how to address this issue as a team effort.

"Over the past 4 months we have lost 2 tenue staff in our RSAT communities due to being compromised (inappropriate relationships). Unfortunately last week we lost our third one that hit our Division pretty hard. We lost our State Mentors, who was also compromised. She has been working in RSAT for 7 years, carried the mentor title for 4 of those years. We are being faced with two challenges here, what are we missing? And what kind of classes can I offer in my RSAT training? If any. Administration wants me to bring in a team of people and  completly restructure the unit. This is an active unit with 48 inmates on it. They already have experienced staff, but in light of what happened they are ready to start all over again. Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated. "

From my conversation with Amanda and Dan, here are some of the issues that stood out to me.
  • Training on ethics with a particular focus on bounderies
  • Institute tighter protocals that clearly identify roles between clients and staff. Right now the upper level inmates have a sense of entitlement that shouldn't be there. Calling staff by first names, having too much access to staff offices and almost seeing themselves as peer not inmates.
  • Client interactions should be in more public places to reduce the chance of being compromised. More structured staffings and meetings where no two people are alone in a room (this is an old TC rule, but it works)
  • Maybe criminal thinking training on tactics clients use to manipulate staff.
Theses were a few quick suggections I had, but WV is very insterested in what the rest of the faculty or RSAT programs can offer.

jgrand - 9/12/2013 3:57:23 PM
RE:West Virginia Needs Help
There are two RSAT webinars that are relevant to this issue.  They are:
1) Next Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 2:00 p.m. EDT, Niki Miller is presenting on "PREA Basics: What RSAT Sites Need to Know." 
2) The March 2013 webinar by Roberta Churchill was  entitled "Ethical Issues in Offender Treatment: Professional Boundaries."  A recording of that webinar can be found in the archived webinar section of the RSAT website,

niki.miller - 9/16/2013 3:55:19 AM
RE:West Virginia Needs Help
I can imagine how difficult these recent events have been for staff. In many institutions where staff misconduct has occurred, mixed emotions arise.  Often, people play back events and wonder if they should have seen it coming.... And while there is condemnation of the actions of staff involved, it is also typical for co-workers to expereince some degree of empathy, with out condoning the behavior.
The PREA webinar on Wednesday will introduce some basics, but there are many resources beyond the webinar that may be helpful. The NIC offers an online training that the staff can take for starters.  Then there are more specific tools for prevention of staff misconduct. Hang in there...and after the webinar we will look at some options.



jndean - 9/23/2013 10:53:26 AM
RE:West Virginia Needs Help
I agree with Niki and with Phil on his recommendations. In our policy, it states: "...when a female staff is individual counseling a male, then another staff person will be present. The same goes for males counseling females." We also enforce a "No Touch" protocal when it comes to staff and inmates. We also require that inmates only address staff by Ms. or Mr. and that staff address clients the same way. This helps prevent that sence of entitlement that Phil mentioned and maintains a professional atmosphere. NIC, which Niki mentions, has an excellant training video on setting boundaries. These are just a couple of things I can think of at this time. John 

niki.miller - 10/16/2013 5:49:11 PM
RE:West Virginia Needs Help


I am glad John endorsed the NIC training video on setting boundaries. NIC offers a number of helpful training resources for transforming correctional workforce culture: .  Hopefully, some of these resources and the others that follow will support your jurisdiction as it deals with the issues your RSAT program has been facing.  

Research has shown that staff finds additional training on boundaries very useful and suggests it may help prevent staff misconduct. The NIC PREA Project also offers the publication, Anti-Fraternization Policies and their Utility in Preventing Staff Sexual Abuse in Custody”:

Research on increasingly common incidents of sexual misconduct involving female correctional staff and male inmates is scarce.  However, Dr. Michael Alexander has compiled an exceptional resource in Romantic Relationships with Inmates” - available at:, from the research library at the PREA Resource Center website.  

A quote from the abstract states:“This paper addresses the causes and consequences of romantic relationships between female correctional staff and inmates.  Particularly, this research seeks to better understand what correctional managers can do to reduce the likelihood of these inappropriate relationships.” 

Reported incidents of female staff sexual misconduct involving male inmates in prison settings are more common than reports of sexual misconduct involving male staff and female inmates, although the opposite may be true in jails. The paper makes sense of this perplexing trend and presents strategies for preventing it from occurring.

One factor that seems to contribute to an environment where boundaries can become permeable, that might be relevant to therapeutic community settings, is related to work assignments where male offenders assist female staff and work under their supervision.  The paper lays out the elements that contribute to the equalizing effect that may result from this arrangement. Other information on staff characteristics that may increase vulnerability, training that preserves professional boundaries, and supervision practices that reinforce appropriate staff/offender communication are all included.

In 2011 & 2012 BJA awarded grants to several states to become demonstration sites, including both the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Kentucky Department of Corrections (more on demonstration sites at: ). It can be worthwhile to contact colleagues working on PREA prevention measures in these states to discuss strategies they are implementing.

Regional Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) trainings for health and mental health staff are offered at no charge.  Nashville, TN. trainings are schedule for late October:  For information and materials on PREA training for behavioral health and healthcare staff developed by the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare visit: