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Women's Correctional Safety Scales Toolkit


The Women’s Correctional Safety Scales (WCSS) toolkit is a rigorously validated survey designed to assess safety in women’s correctional facilities across multiple dimensions. It measures detained and sentenced women's perceptions of safety and gives policy makers a baseline for understanding how safe women feel across a variety of dimensions. While violence in women’s jails and prisons is not a dominant aspect of everyday life, the potential exists and can be shaped by time, place, organizational culture, interpersonal relationships, and staff actions.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act prompted researchers to look at the nature of sexual violence within women’s facilities, focusing on gendered descriptions of conflict, trouble, and violence. From these initial studies, the WSCC was developed, validated, and piloted.

The safety scales focus on prevention and intervention by addressing the multiple factors that can shape the context of violence in the operation of women’s facilities.

What are the issues affecting women’s safety at a facility and how should the facility respond?

Section One
Measures general areas of conflict or violence, which includes women’s economic status, sexual and physical violence, verbal and sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and physical violence.
Section Two
Measures women’s perceptions about the likelihood of violence and harassment, the reporting climate, and awareness of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Section Three
Gathers demographic data and concludes with questions about retaliation concerns.

The WCSS toolkit makes survey planning, administration, analysis, reporting, and action planning more accessible to correctional practitioners via a combination of guidance and software automation.

The WCSS toolkit walks the survey team through the process of administering the WCSS. It begins with the introduction and moves on to planning and conducting the WCSS survey, data entry, interpreting results, preparing the report, and action planning based on findings. An additional section contains all of the materials needed to conduct the WCSS.

Planning for administering the WCSS begins with the facility team, which has no involvement in data collection but is critical to overseeing the planning process and ultimately reviewing and responding to the survey results. The WCSS is administered to incarcerated women by an independent survey team. Absolute confidentiality is essential as well as any appearance of retaliation for participation.

Explicit steps are contained in the toolkit to guide in the selection and role of the survey team as well as to define the role of the facility team.

Also contained in the toolkit are instructions and suggestions about how to conduct the survey, including who takes the survey and where, required materials, what support to provide women who may have challenges with literacy or language, and how to address those who may have reactions to the survey process.

By using the information collected through the WCSS toolkit, correctional practitioners can plan for a safer environment for women who are incarcerated and detained.

We welcome feedback

We invite you to leave a comment or suggestion on how you use the Toolkit or how you would like to see the Toolkit improved.

WCSS Toolkit User Guide - Please Start Here
Note: On page 4 of the User Guide, there is a statement regarding distribution of this program only to beta testers. Please disregard that message. You are permitted to use and distribute the WCSS toolkit as needed to meet your agency's objectives.
WCSS toolkit user guide, updated August 17, 2022.pdf

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