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Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers

Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers


SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 1999               202/307-0784

     WASHINGTON, D.C.--Almost half of the women in
the nation's jails and prisons told interviewers
they had been physically or sexually abused before
their imprisonment, the Justice Department's
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced
today.  A third of the women in state prisons, a
quarter in local jails and a fifth of the women in
federal prisons said they had been raped before
their incarceration.

     Ten percent of men under correctional
supervision said they had been physically or
sexually abused.  About 3 percent of the men in
state prisons and local jails said they had been
raped before their incarceration.   

     Women in the nation's prisons and jails
reported higher levels of abuse as children than
women in the general population.  More than a
third of female state prison and jail inmates said
that they had been abused as children, as did
about 14 percent of male inmates.  The report 
noted that in the general population, estimates of
physical or sexual abuse as children ranged from
12 to 17 percent for females and from 5 to 8
percent for males. 

     Forty-four percent of the male prisoners and
87 percent of the female prisoners who had 
spent the majority of their childhood in foster
care or institutions reported abuse.  Many of them
may have been removed from abusive homes.  
Approximately 15 percent of male inmates and 55
percent of female inmates raised by one or both
parents indicated abuse.

     Of those state prisoners who had grown up
with a parent or guardian who drank heavily or
used drugs regularly, 29 percent of the males and
76 percent of the females reported abuse.

     Among the abused women in the correctional
populations, more than half said they were 
abused by spouses or boyfriends and less than a
third by parents or guardians.  More than half of
the abused men in correctional populations said
they were abused by parents or guardians.

     Abused state prisoners were more likely than
those not abused to have ever served a 
sentence for a violent crime.  Among male inmates
76 percent who were abused and 61 percent not
abused had a current or past sentence for a
violent offense.  Among female offenders, 45
percent of the abused and 29 percent not abused
had served a sentence for a violent crime. 

     Illegal drug use and regular drinking were
more common among abused state prison inmates than
among those who said they had not been abused.  An
estimated 76 percent of the abused men and 80
percent of the abused women had used illegal drugs
regularly, compared to 68 percent of the men and
65 percent of the women who had not been abused.  

     About 60 percent of abused men and 69 percent
of abused women said they used illegal drugs in
the month before their current offense, in
contrast to 55 percent of men and 54 percent of 
women who had not been abused.

     The data on correctional populations used for
this report were based on personal interviews from
BJS surveys of state and federal prison inmates,
local jail inmates, and probationers under active
supervision.  In each of these surveys nationally
representative samples were asked about prior
physical and sexual abuse, as well as their
current and past offenses, personal and family
background, and prior drug and alcohol use and

     The special report, "Prior Abuse Reported by
Inmates and Probationers" (NCJ-172879) was written
by BJS statistician Caroline Wolf Harlow.  Single
copies may be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand
system by dialing 301/519-5550, listening to the
complete menu and selecting document number 153. 
Or call the BJS Clearinghouse number: 
1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders for mail delivery to
410/792-4358.  The BJS Internet site is:


     Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs
homepage at:

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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

(end of file)
Date Published: April 11, 1999