A new U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics study provides the most dramatic evidence yet of a nationwide, systemic crisis of sexual victimization in U.S. prisons, jails, and community corrections facilities, says the advocacy group Just Detention International. Of former state prisoners surveyed, 9.6 percent reported being sexually abused during their most recent period of detention, says “Sexual Victimization Reported by Former State Prisoners, 2008.” Gay and bisexual prisoners were disproportionately targeted in both men’s and women’s prisons; 39 percent of gay male inmates reported being assaulted by other prisoners.
Almost half (46.3 percent) of prisoners who reported to a corrections official that they had been sexually abused by a staff member were themselves written up for an infraction. When prisoners reported sexual abuse by other inmates, they were just as likely to be punished themselves (28.5 percent) as to get to talk to an investigator (28.3 percent) or to see their abuser punished (28.6 percent). More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who reported to staff that they had been abused by another prisoner said that facility staff did not respond at all. “With such blatant retaliation for reporting abuse, it’s no wonder the vast majority of prisoner rape survivors choose to remain silent,” said Lovisa Stannow of Just Detention International. “The failure of many corrections officials to treat sexual abuse within their facilities as a serious crime — and the cynicism of punishing those who report having been abused — is simply stunning.”