U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Prison Rape: Research Explores Prevalence, Prevention

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2008
6 pages
Publication Series
This article reports on prison rape research funded by the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) under the provisions of the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), which includes mandates intended to increase the data and information on the incidence of prison rape in order to improve efforts to prevent sexual violence in correctional facilities.
A study of sexual violence in the Texas prison system found that between 2002 and 2005, White inmates were attacked more than inmates of any other race; victims were generally younger than their assailants; mentally ill or intellectually impaired inmates were more likely to be victimized; and cell blocks with solid cell fronts might contribute to inmate sexual assaults. Another study conducted a sociocultural analysis of prison sexual violence in both men's and women's high-security prisons across the United States. It found that the inmate culture has a complex system of norms on sexual conduct, such that an act of sexual violence in one context may be interpreted differently in another context, depending on the preassault behavior of the victim and assailant, as well as other inmates' perceptions of the causes of the sexual violence. The study also found that inmates "self-police" against unwanted sexual predators and maintain protective relationships designed to prevent physical and sexual abuse. Such protective networks have emerged under inmates' view that prison rape is detrimental to the inmate social order. A third wide-ranging study provides a national "snapshot" of U.S. Department of Corrections initiatives for addressing prison sexual violence, identifying practices that are promising or innovative. Among the promising practices are State mandates to train all staff on inappropriate sexual conduct and sexual violence and provide inmate education on reporting-mechanisms and services for sexual assault victims. 16 notes
Date Published: March 1, 2008