Federal, state, and local correctional authorities reported an estimated 6,528 allegations of sexual violence or harassment involving inmates last year, says a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number is up 21 percent from the first such survey in 2004, but much of that may be due to more complete reporting. It was the equivalent of 2.9 allegations per 1,000 inmates in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional facilities during 2006. About 47 percent of the cases involved sexual violence between inmates; 34 percent were nonconsensual acts, such as rape and forcible sodomy; 13 percent were abusive sexual contacts, such as unwanted touching or grabbing with the intention to sexually exploit.
More than half of the allegations involved staff: 36 percent involved staff sexual misconduct, defined as any act of a sexual nature directed toward an inmate, either consensual or nonconsensual; 17 percent involved staff sexual harassment, including repeated comments or demeaning references of a sexual nature to an inmate. (Such cases are included in the federal definition of “violence.”) Authorities substantiated an estimated 967 incidents of sexual violence–17 percent of allegations with completed investigations. Authorities were unable to substantiate 55 percent of the allegations. Another 29 percent were determined not to have occurred. The report is a part of the data collections required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.