Inmates in Maine's state prisons are more likely to be sexually assaulted than those in most other correctional facilities around the U.S., says a U.S. Department of Justice study reported by the Bangor Daily News. The Maine State Prison in Warren was one of eight facilities among 463 visited by federal officials in which the rate of sexual assault was significantly higher than the national average. Those assaults are perpetrated both by other inmates and prison staff.
State prison officials are working to change that poor record in response to the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, of 2003, and to a report prompted by the law earlier this year that featured survey data of 81,566 inmates nationwide. In May, the Obama administration began pushing a zero-tolerance approach for sexual assault in prisons. “If the data are restricted to inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization,” said Allen Beck of BJS, “the Maine facility rate was 4.4 percent, compared with a national rate of 2.1 percent.” Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who has been overseeing state prisons in Maine since 2011, said he had not been able to review the raw data that came from the inmate surveys conducted in Maine. Stan Moody, who served as chaplain at Maine State Prison from 2008 to 2009, said prisons are “a hormone factory,” and that sex, both consensual and nonconsensual, “may not be tolerated officially, but it's going to be a regular feature of prison.”