7figures“Inmates are still people, and therefore need to be treated as such, with all the challenges and potential that face all human persons,” says Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor. “One of the things it means to treat someone with the dignity they deserve as a human being is to not subject them to conditions where the threat of rape is rampant.”

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported on one of the most overlooked threats to prisoner dignity — sexual victimization by correctional authorities. Here are seven figures from that report:

1. Correctional administrators reported 8,763 allegations of sexual victimization in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional facilities in 2011, a statistically significant increase over the number of allegations reported in 2009 (7,855) and 2010 (8,404).

2.  About half of all allegations (51%) involved nonconsensual sexual acts (the most serious, including penetration) or abusive sexual contacts (less serious, including unwanted touching, grabbing, and groping) of inmates with other inmates. Nearly half (49%) involved staff sexual misconduct (any sexual act directed toward an inmate by staff) or sexual harassment (demeaning verbal statements of a sexual nature) directed toward inmates.

3. In 2011, 902 allegations of sexual victimization (10%) were substantiated (i.e., determined to have occurred upon investigation). The total number of substantiated incidents has not changed significantly since 2005 (885).

4. Victims were physically injured in 18% of substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, compared to less than 1% of incidents of staff-on-inmate victimization.

5. More than half (54%) of all substantiated incidents of staff sexual misconduct and a quarter (26%) of all incidents of staff sexual harassment were committed by female staff.

6. The most common location for inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization was in the victim’s cell or room (50 percent of substantiated incidents), while the most common location for staff-on-inmate sexual victimization was in a program service area (48 percent), such as a commissary, kitchen, storage, laundry, cafeteria or workshop.

7. Overall, more than three-quarters (78%) of staff perpetrators were fired or resigned. Nearly half (45%) were arrested, referred for prosecution, or convicted.

Other posts in this series:

Tax Day Edition

Wages and Employment in America


  • Riley

    It’s important to keep in mind that female staff are frequently targeted emotionally and romantically by male inmates, and that if sexual misconduct results, it’s always considered the fault of the staff member. Inmates cannot legally consent by definition.