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Mentally ill inmates report higher rates of sexual victimization

WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) — Mentally ill prison and jail inmates reported higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, a U.S. Justice Department study released Thursday said.

Gays and lesbian inmates also reported higher rates of unwanted sexual activity.

The “National Inmate Survey, 2011-12” was conducted in 233 state and federal prisons, 358 local jails, and 15 special correctional facilities (operated by the U.S. Armed Forces, Indian tribes, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) between February 2011 and May 2012, with a sample of 92,449 inmates age 18 or older and 1,738 inmates ages 16 to 17, the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics said.

The study said an estimated 6.3 percent of prison inmates and 3.6 percent of jail inmates identified with serious psychological distress reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, compared to 0.7 percent for both prison and jail inmates without a mental health problem.

Inmates who had been told by a mental health professional they had a mental disorder, the study said, reported higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization (3.8 percent in prisons and 2.9 percent in jails) than other inmates (0.8 percent in prisons and 0.6 percent in jails).

“Sexual victimization” is defined as any unwanted sexual activity with other inmates, abusive sexual activity with other inmates, and both willing and unwilling sexual activity with staff, BJS said.

The study said juvenile inmates (1.8 percent) reported rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization similar to those of adults.

The rate of staff sexual misconduct direct at jail inmates ages 16 to 17 (3.3 percent) was higher than for jail inmates ages 35 to 44 (1.5 percent), ages 45 to 54 (0.9 percent) and age 55 or older (0.3 percent), the study said.

For prison inmates, the rate of staff sexual misconduct did not vary among age groups.

Nationwide, 2.0 percent of all prison inmates and 1.6 percent of all jail inmates reported at least one incident involving another inmate; 2.4 percent of prison inmates and 1.8 percent of jail inmates reported having had sex or sexual contact with facility staff, the study said.

An estimated 80,600 adult inmates — 57,900 in prisons and 22,700 in local jails — reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff during 2011-12.

The study found high rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization were reported by violent sex offenders and inmates who identified their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other. Inmates held for violent sex offenses reported higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization (3.7 percent in prisons and 3.9 percent in jails) than inmates held for other offenses.

Inmates who identified their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other were among those with the highest rates of sexual victimization in prisons (12.2 percent) and jails (8.5 percent), the study said.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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