U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Sexual Victimization Reported by Adult Correctional Authorities, 2007-2008

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 10:00 A.M. EST Bureau of Justice Statistics
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26, 2011          Contact: Kara McCarthy (202) 307-1241
HTTP://BJS.OJP.USDOJ.GOV/ After hours: (202) 598-0556

Correctional Authorities Reported MORE THAN 14,800 Allegations of Sexual Victimization  in Prisons and Jails during 2007 and 2008

One in seven were confirmed after investigation

WASHINGTON – Federal, state and local correctional authorities reported an estimated 7,374 allegations of sexual victimization involving incarcerated men and women in 2007 and 7,444 in 2008, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Upon investigation, 1,932 allegations were substantiated (investigated and determined to have occurred), 3,939 were unfounded (determined not to have occurred) and 7,723 were unsubstantiated (lacking sufficient evidence).

Sexual victimization, as defined by BJS in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, involves both inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate sexual victimization. Inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization includes nonconsensual sexual acts (involving penetration) and abusive sexual contacts (involving sexual touching without an inmate’s consent). Staff-on-inmate sexual victimization includes sexual misconduct (involving any behavior or act of a sexual nature directed toward an inmate by staff) and sexual harassment (involving repeated verbal statements or comments of a sexual nature to an inmate by staff).

More than half (993) of all substantiated incidents were perpetrated by another inmate. More than fifty percent of these incidents (503) involved nonconsensual sexual acts. Among all substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, 69 percent involved force or threat force, offers of protection or favors, bribery, blackmail or other type of pressure.

Staff was involved in 939 incidents of sexual misconduct or harassment (515 in 2007 and 424 in 2008). In more than 60 percent of the incidents, the sexual relationship between staff and inmate “appeared willing,” although inmates by law are unable to consent. The majority of incidents (87 percent) involved staff sexual misconduct.

Females were disproportionately victimized by other inmates. They accounted for 21 percent of inmates sexually victimized by other inmates in prison and 32 percent in local jails, while representing 7 percent of prison inmates and 13 percent of jail inmates. Females also accounted for a greater proportion of victims of staff-on-inmate victimization—32 percent of victims in prisons and 56 percent in local jails.

Injuries were reported in about 18 percent of incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimizations. Nonconsensual sexual acts were more likely to result in an injury (28 percent) than abusive sexual contacts (8 percent). Less than one percent of incidents of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization resulted in an injury.

Since BJS first developed uniform definitions and reporting criteria for sexual victimization in 2004, correctional administrators have enhanced their abilities to report data. The number of sexual victimization allegations reported by administrators has increased significantly—6,241 in 2005 compared to 7,444 in 2008. This increase was largely in prisons, where allegations increased by 21 percent (up 1,005). While the overall number of substantiated incidents in prisons and jails did not change statistically, substantiated incidents reported by state prison administrators rose from 459 in 2005 to 589 in 2008. It is unknown whether the trends reflect increased victimization or better reporting.

The report, Sexual Victimization Reported by Adult Correctional Authorities, 2007-2008 (NCJ 231172), is part of the data collections required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-79). The Survey of Sexual Violence (SSV), which collects administrative data on the incidence of sexual victimization in prisons and jails, has been conducted annually since 2004. The National Inmate Survey (NIS), which collects reports of victimization directly from inmates, has been conducted in 2007 and 2008-09. The NIS provides facility-level estimates of sexual victimization that are used to rank facilities and detailed information on the circumstances surrounding sexual victimization by inmate characteristic and facility type. Both SSV and NIS will be conducted in 2011.

This report was written by BJS statisticians Paul Guerino and Allen J. Beck. Following publication, the report can be found at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/.

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/.

# # #

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.


Date Published: January 26, 2011