Crime in America.Net
A reader asks why female prison staff members are over-represented as to sexually victimizing male inmates (see report below–69 percent of victimized male inmate’s claim sexual encounters with female staff). Please note that the percentages are rather small; an estimated 2.9 percent of male prisoners and 2.1 percent of male jail inmates reported at least one incident with staff, compared to 2.1 percent of female prisoners and 1.5 percent of female jail inmates.
She points out that this is the only violent crime category she can think of where the majority of perpetrators are female, and she’s correct.
This is nature’s equivalent of the three-headed rabbit; it’s so rare as to astound. Females rarely rank high for any crime so to see female perpetrators dominate any violent crime category; it begs the question “why”?
We spoke to a variety of colleagues with current and past correctional experience, and while their explanations make us uncomfortable, here is what they said.
They cite the fact that many prisons in the country have large female correctional staffs and in some prisons, the majority of correctional officers are female.
Female correctional officers feel vulnerable due to differences in size. Some female officers are forming allegiances with male inmates for protection and this is leading to “consensual” sexual encounters and contraband (cell phones, drugs, tobacco) being brought into the institution. To put it bluntly, male inmates are being both threatening and enticing.
Our contacts quickly tell us that this problem affects a small number of female correctional officers and that the majority are doing a great job (in some cases, better than male officers).
The process described above also applies to some male correctional officers.
But it’s the best explanation we’ve heard as to why 69 percent of victimized male inmate’s claim sexual encounters with female staff and an additional 16% reported sexual activity with both female and male staff.
While we know that these observations will bring an array of e-mails, we are open to better explanations and we would be more than happy to print clarifications.
The data below summarizes portions of the full report, see http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svpjri0809.pdf.
Also see the press release from the US Department of Justice at the bottom of this article.
Summary from the Full Report:
Among victims in prison, male victims of staff sexual misconduct (64%) were more likely than female victims (30%) to report incidents that involved no pressure or force (table 17). A similar pattern was reported by victims in jail, with an estimated 56% of male victims and 31% of female victims reporting one or more incidents that involved no pressure or force by staff.
Among the 39,121 male prison inmates who had been victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% reported sexual activity with female staff; an additional 16% reported sexual activity with both female and male staff.
In comparison, among the 2,123 female prison inmates who had been victimized, 72% reported that the staff perpetrator was male; an additional 19% reported both male and female staff. Similar patterns of staff sexual misconduct were reported by jail inmates.
Nearly two-thirds of the male jail inmates who had been victimized said the staff perpetrator was female (64%). About the same percentage (63%) of female victims said the perpetrator was a male staff member at the jail.
4.4 PERCENT OF PRISON INMATES AND 3.1 PERCENT OF JAIL INMATES REPORTED ONE
OR MORE INCIDENTS OF SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION DURING 2008-2009
WASHINGTON – An estimated 88,500 inmates—64,500 in prison and 24,000 in jails—reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff during 2008-09, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs announced today. The findings are based on a survey of prison and jail inmates about incidents occurring in the last 12 months or since their admission to the facility, if less than 12 months.
To meet requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, BJS surveyed more than 81,500 inmates held in 167 state and federal prisons, 286 jails, and 10 special confinement facilities between October 2008 and December 2009. Nationwide, 2.1 percent of all prison inmates and 1.5 percent of all jail inmates reported at least one incident involving another inmate; 2.8 percent of prison inmates and 2.0 percent of jail inmates reported having had sex or sexual contact with facility staff.
Among the 463 facilities in the survey, eight male prisons, two female prisons, and six jails were identified as “high rate” facilities based on the prevalence of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization. Four male prisons, two female prisons, and five jails were identified as “high rate” based on the prevalence rate of staff sexual misconduct.
Among all prison inmates, the reported use or threat of physical force to engage in sexual activity was generally low. An estimated 1.3 percent of prison inmates reported the use or threat of force during inmate-on-inmate victimization and 1.0 percent during staff sexual misconduct. Among all jail inmates, 1.0 percent reported the use or threat of force during inmate-on-inmate victimization and staff sexual misconduct.
Female prisoners (4.7 percent) were more than twice as likely as male prisoners (1.9 percent) to report experiencing sexual victimization by another prisoner. Jail inmates reported a similar pattern of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization (3.1 percent for females compared to 1.3 percent for males).
Sexual activity with staff was somewhat more prevalent among incarcerated males. An estimated 2.9 percent of male prisoners and 2.1 percent of male jail inmates reported at least one incident with staff, compared to 2.1 percent of female prisoners and 1.5 percent of female jail inmates.
Among male inmates who reported staff sexual misconduct in prison and jail, about two-thirds reported sexual activity with female staff.
White or multi-racial inmates reported higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in prisons and jails than black inmates. Higher rates were also reported among inmates who had a college degree or more compared to those who had not completed high school, who had a sexual orientation other than heterosexual compared to heterosexuals, and who had experienced a sexual victimization before coming to the facility compared to those who had not.
Rates of reported staff sexual misconduct were higher among black inmates compared to white inmates and higher for inmates ages 20 to 24 compared to those age 25 or older. Also, rates of staff sexual misconduct were higher among inmates with a college degree or more compared to those who had not completed high school, and among inmates who had experienced a sexual victimization before coming to the facility compared to those who had not.
About half of the inmates who reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimizations reported at least one incident of nonconsensual sex, defined as unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or manual stimulation. Over half of the inmates who reported staff sexual misconduct said that the sexual contact or activity was willing.
Among victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, 37 percent of males in jail and 21 percent of males in prison reported being injured. Among females, eight percent in jail and 17 percent in prison reported being injured. For victims of staff sexual misconduct, 17 percent of males in jail and nine percent of males in prison reported they had been injured, compared to eight percent of females in jail and 19 percent of females in prison. The most common injuries were bruises, scratches and cuts.
The report, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09 (NCJ 231169), was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison and RTI International staff Marcus Berzofsky, Rachel Caspar, and Christopher Krebs. Following publication, the report can be found at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/.
For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/.
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