Fear of Retaliation Cited in ‘Absurdly Low’ Prison Sex Abuse Figures


Fear of retaliation helps explain why a “large majority” of inmates who have been sexually abused by staff or by other inmates never report it, David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow write in the New York Review of Books. And corrections officials, with some brave exceptions, have historically taken advantage of this reluctance to downplay or even deny the problem.

A recent federal report said there were only 7,444 official allegations of sexual abuse in detention in 2008. Of those, only 931 were substantiated. The writers called these “absurdly low figures.” They note that an estimated 65,700 inmates, including 6,800 juveniles, had sex with staff “willingly.” But it is illegal in all 50 states for corrections staff to have any sexual contact with inmates. In addition, there 45,000 victims of “abusive sexual contacts” in 2008, which included unwanted touching by another inmate.

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