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“Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails”



The Bureau of Justice Statistics  just released a new report, “Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-2012.” Sexual crimes are prevalent in most prisons and widespread in certain institutions. The statistics cited  are based on incidents reported by inmates. For different reasons, many sexual crimes in prison are not reported by inmates. Even in a survey with no names given, some inmates will still not acknowledge any sexual incident involving the inmate or other inmates. The actual figures are much higher than given in this report. However, this report does give some insight into what prison is like for some inmates.

What is prison like

Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011 – 2012

Allen Beck, Ph.D., BJS Statistician, Marcus Berzofsky, Dr.P.H., Rachel Caspar, Christopher Krebs, Ph.D., RTI International

May 16, 2013    NCJ 241399

Presents data from the National Inmate Survey (NIS), 2011-12, conducted in 233 state and federal prisons, 358 local jails, and 15 special correctional facilities (operated by U.S. Armed Forces, Indian tribes, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)) between February 2011 and May 2012, with a sample of 92,449 inmates age 18 or older and 1,738 inmates ages 16 to 17. The report ranks facilities according to the prevalence of sexual victimization, as required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-79). The prevalence of victimization, as reported by inmates during a personal interview, is based on sexual activity in the 12 months prior to the interview or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months. This report includes estimates of non-consensual sexual acts, abusive sexual contacts, inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate victimization, and level of coercion. It provides the first-ever national-level estimates of sexual victimization of juvenile inmates ages 16 to 17 held in adult facilities. The report also presents findings on reported sexual victimization by selected demographic and other inmate characteristics, including measures of serious mental illness for the first time.


  • In 2011-12, an estimated 4.0% of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months.
  • Patterns of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in 2011-12 were consistent with patterns in past surveys. Rates reported by prison and jail inmates were higher among females than males, higher among whites than blacks, and higher among inmates with a college degree than those who had not completed high school.
  • Eleven male prisons, 1 female prison, and 9 jails were identified as high-rate facilities based on the prevalence of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in 2011-12. Eight male prisons, 4 female prisons, and 12 jails were identified as high rate based on the prevalence of staff sexual misconduct. Each of these facilities had a lower bound of the 95%-confidence interval that was at least 55% higher than the average rate among comparable facilities.
  • An estimated 1.8% of juveniles ages 16 to 17 held in prisons and jails reported being victimized by another inmate, compared to 2.0% of adults in prisons and 1.6% of adults in jails.
  • Among state and federal prison inmates, an estimated 6.3% of those identified with serious psychological distress reported that they were sexually victimized by another inmate. In comparison, among prisoners with no indication of mental illness, 0.7% reported being victimized by another inmate

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