Women inmates in New Jersey’s prisons are twice as likely to be raped and six times as likely to be sexually abused while behind bars than their male counterparts, says a new study reported by the Associated Press. Other inmates are often the culprits. The study, in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, reports that nearly one in four female inmates said they had been either raped or abused while in prison. It found that New Jersey’s male inmates were more likely to be sexually abused by prison staff than by other inmates.
The study’s lead author said the survey of 7,500 inmates showed sex abuse in state prisons was relatively rare, but it is a normal occurrence for some prisoners. “The bad news is that sexual assault and inappropriate touching that has sexual overtones is part of life for some inmates held in New Jersey prisons,” said Nancy Wolff of the Center for Mental Health Services and Criminal Justice Research at Rutgers University. The study showed that prisoners of either gender under the age of 26 were at a higher risk of being abused than older inmates. Because the survey was based on anonymous responses, and less than half the prison population responded, the study may have been influenced by false reports or omissions. There were 26,353 inmates in New Jersey state prisons last year, when the survey was taken. The state reported only 12 allegations of staff sexual misconduct and said only three were substantiated.