60,000 Inmates Sexually Abused Every Year

A federal commission on prison rape has concluded that the risk of being attacked depends greatly on the type of prisoner, and where the inmate is locked up.

More than 60,000 inmates are sexually abused every year, according to a report being made public Tuesday by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. The eight-member panel was formed under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Based on a 2007 survey of tens of thousands of incarcerated people, 4.5 percent of those surveyed reported being sexually abused in the previous 12 months - and more prisoners claimed abuse by staff than by other inmates.

Among the key findings of the report aimed at reducing the amount of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse behind bars, the panel found:

  • Who gets abused depends a great deal on where they are incarcerated. Ten facilities studied had high rates, between 9 percent and almost 16 percent, whereas six facilities reported no abuse at all for the past year. The commission said prison management must show leadership in stopping such abuse.

  • Inmates in jails reported fewer instances of rape than in prisons.

  • Inmates who were short, young, gay or female were more likely to be victimized than other inmates.

    To fight the problem, the commission says prison authorities should adopt more internal monitoring and external oversight. They also say prison officials need to improve investigation of claims of sexual assault and rape, because currently many victims cannot safely and easily come forward.

    After the prison rape report is sent to Congress, the attorney general is to create new national standards for detecting and preventing rape and sexual assault in prisons, jails and detention facilities.

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