May 23, 2012
The first National Former Prisoners Survey, released May 17 by the Department of Justice (DOJ), reported almost 10 percent of former inmates said they were the victims of sexual abuse while incarcerated. About 3.7 percent said they were forced to have sex with another prisoner, while about 5.3 percent reported incidents involving staff members.
One-quarter of those victimized by inmates said they had been restrained during the attack, and one-quarter were physically injured. Twenty-three percent reported serious injuries, including anal or vaginal tearing (12 percent), chipped or lost teeth (12 percent), being knocked out (8 percent), internal injuries (6 percent), stab wounds (4 percent) or broken bones (4 percent).
Men who have sex with men suffered victimization at 10 times the rate of heterosexual men (3.5 percent of heterosexuals, vs. 39 percent of homosexuals and 34 percent of bisexuals).
Half of those who reported being victims of sexual misconduct by staffers said they had been offered special privileges; one-third said they had been talked into participating. More than three-quarters of these reports involved male inmates and female staff members. All sexual contact between prisoners and staff is considered legally nonconsensual; however, respondents characterized some of these encounters as "willing."
The survey includes responses from 518,000 former prisoners who were on supervised parole in mid-2008.
"For too long, incidents of sexual abuse against incarcerated persons have not been taken as seriously as sexual abuse outside prison walls," DOJ said in a statement. "In popular culture, prison rape is often the subject of jokes; in public discourse, it has been at time dismissed by some as an inevitable -- or even deserved -- consequence of criminality."
Immediately after the report's release, the Obama administration announced new mandatory standards aimed at reducing sexual victimization in correctional settings.