This report examines the prevalence of the sexual abuse of inmates by correctional staff and also analyzes the laws that exist to deter this type of abuse. The Office of the Inspector General reviewed reports of such abuse in federal prison, examined the current statutes in place and deficiencies that exists in those statutes, compared state and local laws on staff abuse of inmates to federal laws, and gives recommendations for changes in the current law.
On September 4, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-79). The legislation requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to develop a new national data collection on the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault within correctional facilities. This report updates Implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, dated February 5, 2004.
In an effort to get a summary estimate of the level of sexual victimization, a meta-analysis was conducted to provide a calculation of an average estimate over all of the studies, even though any single study may not meet conventional levels of statistical significance. Results of the meta-analysis indicate an average prison lifetime sexual assault prevalence of 1.91 percent. This means that 1.91 percent of inmates have experienced a sexual victimization over a lifetime of incarceration. This estimate is based primarily on studies which report completed victimizations, although it incorporates some studies which also include serious attempts of sexual assault and one study that includes sexual pressure.
The task framed by the Prison Elimination Act of 2003 presents problems of estimation, validity, and bias. The correctional setting amplifies the problems encountered when researchers measure sensitive and stigmatized behaviors in the community. Most of the literature has been concerned with adult prisons. While there are difficulties encountered in prisons, there will be additional problems in jails and juvenile facilities. Jails have high turnover rates. To get compliance from adolescents, in most jurisdictions you need the consent of their parents. While the task is a formidable one, it is worth the effort, even if prison rape is a relatively rare event. The data can be used to raise or allay concerns depending on the results of the jurisdiction. The survey results can be used to train staff and inmates. The data may lead to better classification of victims and assailants which will help to reduce the level of sexual assault. The American Correctional Association has already promulgated new standards that address prevention, detection, and records collection associated with sexual assault. Because there is no validity check on the outcomes, there will probably always be some controversy associated with the results of a facility-based estimate. The adjustments to the estimates required by the public law will probably amplify that controversy. Furthermore, there are critics of correctional administration and some researchers who argue that prison sex is part of a subculture of sexuality that is not commonly understood by most analysts doing work in this domain. They argue that to fully understand the level of sexual victimization, one must first understand the language and sub-cultural definitions used by the confined. The data may also lead to a more objective understanding of the actual level of prison sexual victimization that will either support or invalidate the assumptions inherent in the Rape Elimination Act that make it appear prison rape is endemic in American correctional institutions. However, since there is no independent assessment of the validity of the self-reported incidents, there may well be dissatisfaction with the results of a national probability assessment regardless of the outcome.
This is the text of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, including amendments. An Act to provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources,· recommendations, and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.