Creating a call for help



Nearly a decade after President George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act into law, Scott Catey has been tasked with applying those new safeguards for Montana inmates.

As the state's new PREA coordinator, Catey will help ensure that inmates at the Montana State Prison and other jails and pre-release facilities have access to a special crisis line operated by YWCA Missoula. The line provides a way for inmates to report sexual assaults and sexual harassment by facility staff or other prisoners, without fear of reprisal. The line is expected to be up and running by early August.

"It's a big job for (YWCA Missoula)," Catey says. "I'm pretty happy to have them on board doing that."

PREA faces the difficult task of walking a fine line between maintaining certain security protocols and providing resources to inmates. For instance, Catey says inmate phone calls are recorded by facility staff, but not automatically listened to. Recordings of hotline calls would be flagged to maintain privacy for the victim.

Another problem deals with "blind spots" in each facility. PREA's budget originally allocated funding for the installation of security cameras that would monitor areas where crimes can occur. That funding, consisting of more than $1 million split between state and federal dollars, has been redirected mostly toward hiring new staff.

"Showers are a real problem," says Catey. "Some of them are just open."

The biggest issue is privacy. Most inmates do not have access to phones in an area where other inmates can't overhear a crisis hotline call. Catey says there's no easy solution.

"It's not a perfect situation, to be honest," he says. "Short of redesigning the prison I don't know how we can get around that, but that's the way it is for now."

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