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Protective Custody and Hardship in Prison

NCJ Number
Sentencing Trends Issue: 21 Dated: February 2001 Pages: 1-12
Lynne A. Barnes
Date Published
February 2001
12 pages
This article provides a comprehensive overview of protective custody and the main issues associated with offenders who are detained in this form of custody.
The rate of increase in the numbers of inmates in protection is 4.4 times that of inmates in full time custody in New South Wales, Australia. Some inmates will have to spend varying periods of time in protection in a transit facility before being moved to a correctional center to which they have been classified. Inmates can be detained and separated from the mainstream population by either segregation or protection. The reason an inmate is held in segregation is to protect others from the inmate. The aim of protective custody is to protect the inmate from other inmates. There are two types of protective custody: normal and strict protection. Normal protection contains the largest group of protectees who are free to associate with all other inmates in normal protection. Strict protection contains inmates removed from the pool of normal protection inmates because they are in need of protection from other protectees. An offender may be placed in protective custody at his or her request (the most common situation), or under a protective custody direction. In addition to child sex offenders, child murderers, and informers there are other sentenced and unsentenced offenders held in protection who are vulnerable to abuse while in custody. These include first time offenders, homosexual or lesbian offenders, and suicidal offenders. Protective custody conditions can involve a degree of isolation, removal of freedoms and privileges, and other forms of hardship. Because the conditions faced by inmates in protective custody depend on a complex interaction of factors including legal status, security classification, offense, and length of remand or sentence, there are no simple solutions to the issues raised by protective custody. 6 figures, 2 tables, and 99 notes.