This is my position that covers the highlights of the report Prison Rape: A Critical
Review of the Literature, which analyzes obstacles and problems that must be overcome
to effectively measure sexual assault at the facility level. Each bold heading in this
summary refers to the same bold heading contained in the larger report.
Federal Legislation. The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 calls for research and
policy changes to minimize sexual victimization of incarcerated juveniles and adults. The Act
also calls for a zero tolerance policy; national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction,
and punishment of prison rape; collection of data on incidence; and development of a system to
hold prison officials accountable. Also, the Bureau of Justice Statistics is to design a
methodology to assess the prevalence of prison sexual assault and monitor adult prisons, jails,
and juvenile facilities. In the findings section of the public law, there is a claim from unnamed
experts that a conservative estimate of victimization suggests that 13 percent of inmates in the
United States have been sexually assaulted.
Defining Sexual Victimization Prevalence and Incidence. Research should distinguish
various levels of sexual victimization from completed rapes to other forms of sexual coercion.
Any measurement process will have to distinguish between the prevalence and incidence of the
events. Prevalence refers to the number of people in a given population who have ever had a
sexual assault experience. Incidence refers to the number of new cases. This distinction is
important, because prevalence can be high, but the number of new cases is low due to some kind
of intervention or enforcement of policy. Aside from one study conducted by the Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS) in 1997, all other studies conducted in the United States included fewer
than 50 prisons in total. In 2000, BJS reported there were 1,668 federal and state prisons.
There has also been one study of sexual victimization in a jail system. In 1999, the
Bureau of Justice Statistics reported there were 3,365 jails in the United States. Studies Involving
Primarily Men, or Men and Women. Studies by Tewksbury, and Castle (2003), Carroll (1977),
Chonco (1989), Moss, Hosford, and Statistics (1997) reported on primarily male samples, or a
combination of female and male samples. The Butler and Milner and Butler et al., studies were
conducted as part of a larger health assessment in the prison system in New South Wales,
Australia. Details of each of these studies are covered in the full report. U.S. National Probability
Sample of Rape during Incarceration. The only attempt at a U.S. national probability sample of
adults in state and federal prisons was conducted by BJS in 1997. In that study, 0.45 percent of
men and 0.35 percent of women prisoners reported they had experienced an attempted or
completed rape during a previous incarceration.
U.S. National Probability Sample of Forced Sexual Activity among Youth in Juvenile
Facilities. There has also been a national probability sample of youth living in juvenile facilities
because they are accused or convicted of a crime. The Survey of Youth in Residential Placement
(SYRP) was sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Over
7,000 juveniles participated (75 percent response rate) and detailed questions about forced sex
were asked. The results will be released soon. Aside from the New South Wales and BJS
studies, most other research papers report survey return rates of 50 percent or less. Many
response rates are 25 percent or lower. The prevalence estimates in this research less typically
referring to the entire period of incarceration. When forms of sexual pressure are included, these
estimates increase to an upper...
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