This report is compiled by the US department of Justice, Bureau of statistics because of a directive in the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 which requires yearly documentation, analysis, and reporting of sexual assault in the prison system. While some distinctions were made between populations at private and public institutions, the statistics did not attempt to compare instances of sexual assaults explicitly between these two groups.
Despite an explicit comparison between public and privately managed institutions, it is useful to understand the prevalence of sexual assault in the penal system. This information is useful to the overall picture of broken managerial and governance structures for the prison industrial complex. Sexual assault, especially when it is used as a tool of the oppressor, works to disempower women within the system and prevent them from speaking out.
According to the report, “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.” While 4.0% isn’t a huge proportion of the overall population, the more alarming part is that sexual assault has remained at this level for years. We can also consider problems like sample size, location, and coercion factors to recognize that not all victims admit to sexual assault, and there is the possibility that some participants in this survey may have lied or misunderstood the question.
The survey reported that 225 prisons and 358 jails participated in the survey. However, only 13 prisons and 34 jails did not report incidences of sexual victimization. From a big-picture perspective, the fact that only 13 prisons did NOT have a sexual victimization incident is alarming. That means 212 prisons and 324 jails reported at least once instance, which is significant at an institutional level. While this points to a problem in the prison system overall, it does reflect what is happening in the private sector.
Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12