U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys on rapes in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities probably underestimate the extent of the problem. Even taken at face value, says the New York Review of Books, they reveal much more systemic abuse than has been generally recognized or admitted. BJS has found that 4.5 percent of prisoners had been sexually abused in the facilities at which they answered a questionnaire during the preceding year: approximately 60,500 people. Moreover, 3.2 percent of jail inmates had been sexually abused in their facilities over the preceding six months, meaning an estimated total of 24,700 nationwide.
Jail is where most inmates are raped. The press seems to have missed the fact that because the BJS numbers come from snapshot surveys, they represent only a small fraction of those incarcerated every year. People move in and out of jail very quickly. The number of annual jail admissions is about 17 times higher than the jail population on any given day. Prisoner rape is one of this country’s most widespread human rights problems, and arguably its most neglected, says the Review essay.