Appendix 1

Incidence and prevalence

Incidence and prevalence

A growing body of research documents the incidence and prevalence of sexual victimization (as defined by PREA) in prisons and jails. For example, see two studies by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS):

  • From February 2011 through May 2012, an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the 12 months preceding the study—or since admission to the facility, if less than a year ago.[1]
  • A 2008 study found that 9.6 percent of former state inmates reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual victimization during their most recent incarceration.[2] The same study reported that an average of 2 percent of former state inmates serving time in a community-based correctional facility reported being sexually abused by staff or another resident while there. Note that former state inmates are just one of the populations in community confinement.

Information continues to emerge regarding the sexual victimization of juveniles in correctional settings. For example, a BJS study found that 9.5 percent of youth in juvenile confinement facilities reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization in the year preceding the study—or since their admission, if less than a year.[3] Some highlights of the study are as follows:

  • About 2.5 percent of youth reported an incident involving another youth and 7.7 percent reported an incident involving facility staff. About 3.5 percent reported having sex or sexual contact with staff as a result of force, while 4.7 percent reported sexual contact with staff without any force, threat, or other explicit form of coercion.
  • Male residents (8.2 percent) were more likely than female residents (2.8 percent) to report sexual activity with facility staff, while young women (5.4 percent) were more likely than young men (2.2%) to report forced sexual activity with another youth. More than 90 percent of youth who reported staff sexual misconduct said they had been victimized by female facility staff.
  • Youth who identified their sexual orientation as something other than heterosexual had significantly higher rates of sexual victimization by other youth (10.3 percent) than heterosexual youth did (1.5 percent).
  • Youth who had experienced prior sexual assault were more than seven times likelier to report sexual victimization by another youth in the facility than was true of young people who did not report a history of sexual assault.

[1] A. Beck, M. Berzofsky, R. Caspar, and C. Krebs, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-12 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). This survey study was conducted in 233 state/federal prisons, 358 local jails, and 15 other correctional facilities (operated by U.S. Armed Forces, Indian tribes, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in 2011 and 2012, with a survey sample of 92,449 inmates ages 18 or older and 1,738 respondents who were ages 16 and to 17.

[2] A. Beck and C. Johnson, Sexual Victimization Reported by Former State Prisoners, 2008 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).

[3] A. Beck, D. Cantor, J. Hartge, and T. Smith, Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). This study was conducted in 326 juvenile confinement facilities with a random sample of 8,707 youth.

Little research has been done on sexual victimization in adult residential and nonresidential community corrections facilities. Journalists have reported on sexual assault in community corrections (see The Impact of National PREA Standards on Community Corrections), but more research is needed to assess the scope of the problem in these settings.

The National PREA Resource Center Library is a good place to learn more about research on the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault in correctional settings.

Keep Reading