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Allegations of sexual victimization in adult correctional facilities nearly tripled from 2011 to 2015

WASHINGTON — If you get sent to a U.S. prison, abstinence may not be in the cards for you, whether you like it or not.

Correctional administrators reported 24,661 allegations of sexual victimization in prisons, jails and other adult correctional facilities in 2015, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of allegations in 2015 nearly tripled from 8,768 in 2011.

This increase coincided with the implementation of the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape in 2012. The standards require correctional facilities to educate staff and inmates on sexual victimization, refer all allegations for investigation, track the information collected in BJS’s Survey of Sexual Victimization and provide the information on request.

Most of the increase in allegations was due to an increase in unfounded (determined not to have occurred) and unsubstantiated (insufficient evidence to determine if it occurred) allegations. Of the 24,661 allegations of sexual victimization in 2015, 1,473 were substantiated (determined to have occurred)—a 63 percent increase from the 902 substantiated incidents in 2011.

Fifty-eight percent of substantiated incidents of sexual victimization in 2015 were perpetrated by inmates, while 42 percent were perpetrated by staff members.

During the 4-year aggregated period of 2012-15, there were a total of 67,169 allegations of sexual victimization in correctional facilities. Investigations were completed for 61,322 of these allegations, and 5,187 allegations (8 percent) were substantiated.

Between 2011 and 2015, the increase in allegations and substantiated incidents of sexual victimization occurred across all types of correctional facilities. The number of allegations in prisons increased 180 percent (from 6,660 to 18,666), and the number in jails increased 184 percent (from 2,047 to 5,809). The number of substantiated incidents in jails more than doubled, from 284 in 2011 to 576 in 2015, while the number of substantiated incidents in prisons rose 44 percent, from 605 to 873.

Allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization increased more than allegations of inmate-on-inmate victimization; however, substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization rose more than substantiated incidents of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization.

Data in this report come from the Survey of Sexual Victimization, an annual collection mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) and conducted by BJS since 2004 to measure the incidence of prison rape. The survey is based on the official administrative records of correctional systems and jails, and covers all federal prisons, state prisons, facilities operated by the U.S. military and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and a representative sample of local jails, jails in Indian country and privately operated jails and prisons.

The report, Sexual Victimization Reported by Adult Correctional Authorities, 2012-15 (NCJ 251146), was written by BJS statistician Ramona R. Rantala. This report, related documents and additional information about BJS’s statistical publications and programs can be found on the BJS website at

The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice is the principal federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating reliable statistics on crime and justice systems in the United States. Jeffrey H. Anderson is director.

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