Jail participating in inmate sex assault hotline

March 28, 2014

The Washington County Correctional Facility has joined a consortium of counties that have agreed to provide a toll-free phone number to inmates who are reporting incidents of sexual abuse that have occurred while they are incarcerated.

The Washington County commissioners entered into an agreement last week at no cost with the state Department of Corrections to use a 24-hour reporting line connected with the prison at Camp Hill, Cumberland County.

The phone number is 1-866-823-6703. Jail Warden John Temas said he intends to post the number on a sign in the lobby.

Susan Bensinger, deputy press secretary for the Department of Corrections, said because Camp Hill is a state institution, it meets the requirement of a third-party to whom county jail inmates can make a report.

A news release on the reporting line states that calls will be answered by an officer who will ask a number of questions regarding the allegation. Inmates are not required to identify themselves.

The information will be forwarded to the Department of Corrections’ chief of security and the security office at the facility where the alleged incident occurred. An investigation will be conducted at the facility or by the state Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence, or both.

Bensinger said the agreement with Washington County is the latest involving the Department of Corrections and a number of counties.

There is a separate phone number for inmates of the State Correctional Institution at Greene County to contact. Since last month, the Department of Corrections has partnered with the state police to handle calls about alleged sexual abuse to allow the department to be in compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which requires that investigations be handled by a third party.

Previously, such calls were received by Department of Corrections staff and handled internally. The calls are now being routed to the state police Crime Stoppers Tip Line. All reports will be sent to the appropriate state prison but also to the appropriate state police barracks.

The number for state prison inmates to call to report institutional sexual misconduct or sexual abuse is now 1-800-472-8477, a toll-free number sponsored by the state Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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