Services to Incarcerated Women

Behind bars

The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that more that 50 % of women in jail say they have been physically or sexually abused in the past.  These statistics further show that 32% of women who report a history of sexual abuse, were abused before the age of 18 and 24% say they have been abused since age 18.  This data raises the question of how histories of abuse are related to the criminal offenses of incarcerated women.  Research also shows that there is a high percentage of substance abuse among women with histories of sexual abuse.  Some may argue that the most common offenses of women, such as those related to alcohol, drug use and burglary, can be linked to how sexual abuse survivors cope with trauma. While research has not been conducted specifically in Maine, anecdotal information collected from evaluations distributed to women at the Cumberland and York County Jails reveal that the experience of this population is in line with the national data referenced above.   In fact, in 100% of evaluations collected, women reported having experienced sexual violence and/or some type of interpersonal violence at some time in their life.


For the last four years, SARSSM staff has been providing support and advocacy to women at the Cumberland and York County Jails in collaboration with local domestic violence projects.  SARSSM’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Advocates provide weekly outreach at each jail, including a low barrier weekly group at each site and availability to provide individual advocacy and support to women who disclose past or present sexual assault.  The weekly groups create opportunities for women to gain a greater understanding of the impact sexual violence has had on their lives, develop strategies to deal with the emotional and physical impact and to be proactive in participating in the criminal justice process when a current sexual assault has occurred. There is a need for our services at both jails and SARSSM has a track record of meeting the needs of this underserved population through our collaboration with other service providers and jail personnel.


Services provided by SART Advocates are available for both female and male inmates at Cumberland and York County Jails and Maine Correctional Center, Windham.


Services include:

  • One-to-one professional visits at the correctional facility to provide emotional support and advocacy
  • Written materials for victims of sexual assault
  • Advocacy with the health care needs associated with the sexual assault
  • Accompaniment and advocacy regarding law enforcement and legal appointments
  • Resource identification and referrals
  • Advocacy and collaboration with other social service providers. 


Accessing our services:

It is important to note that because of the strict and secure environment of a jail, there are natural barriers to incarcerated women gaining access to any services. 

Different correctional facilities have different procedures regarding accessing our services. 


For inmates:

  • Make a request through a social worker, mental health or medical provider; and that provider can contact a SART Advocate directly
  • Make a request through the jail’s administration
  • Go to a weekly group and request a one-to-one (applies to County Jail inmates only)
  • Send a request to P.O. Box 1371, Portland, ME 04104


For service providers and jail administration:

  • Our SART Advocates are approved visitors, having gone through all local correctional facilities’ training
  • You are welcome to contact our SART Advocates directly to request services on behalf of an inmate
  • Professional training about our services and sexual assault are available