Fewer than 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse behind bars in the United States were substantiated in 2007 and 2008, years in which an estimated total of 400,000 alleged abuses occurred, according to inmate self-reports, said two Justice Department reports this week. The annual estimate of 200,000 incidents was included in a report issued in support of proposed national rules aimed at reducing sexual abuse in prisons and jails. Data on how actual cases were handled were reported yesterday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. “The common lack of a meaningful response documented by [the reports] has a devastating chilling effect on other inmates who have been victimized,” explained Lovisa Stannow of the advocacy group Just Detention International.
The BJS report said that more than half (993) of all substantiated sex acts were perpetrated by another inmate. More than fifty percent of these incidents (503) involved nonconsensual sexual acts. Among substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, 69 percent involved force or threat force, offers of protection or favors, bribery, blackmail, or other type of pressure. Staff was involved in 939 incidents of sexual misconduct or harassment (515 in 2007 and 424 in 2008). In more than 60 percent of the incidents, the sexual relationship between staff and inmate “appeared willing,” although inmates by law are unable to consent.