Inspired By: Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003

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.

ƒAccording 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


2 thoughts on “Inspired By: Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003”

  1. Reporting of sexual assault is important, of course, but also tricky.

    If this is survey-based, as you say, are they good survey items? Did the people taking them believe they could report incidents and not face consequences?

    Is 4% low compared to other estimates by others? I mean, the number floated around for campuses is 1/4 or (more?) women report sexual assault over their career….

    “Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T., & Turner, M.G. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Findings from this report include:

    It is estimated that the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions may be between 20% and 25% over the course of a college career.”

    If we assume four years in the average career, and only (I hope) one incident in any year, to get to 25% over four years means that it is 6% for any set of women in a given year.

    So, women on campuses face sexual assault (completed or attempted) more often then prisoners? There may be lots of flaws in my reasoning, but it is a starting point.


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