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Prison sexual violence often unreported for fear of reprisal: DOJ

[JURIST] Sexual violence in US prisons, perpetrated by both inmates and prison staff, often goes unreported [DOJ press release] because abused inmates fear a reprisal or do not trust prison staff, according to a US Department of Justice report [text, PDF; summary] released Sunday. The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) [official website] examined reports to prison administrations comprising 78 percent of the adult prison population in 2005, finding over 6,000 allegations of sexual violence at a rate of 2.8 acts per 1,000 inmates, up from 2.5 acts in a 2004 survey [text, PDF; summary]. Staff initiated sexual misconduct constituted 38 percent of the allegations, while inmate-to-inmate rape constituted 35 percent of allegations. Lesser degrees of sexual harassment and contacts represented the remaining 27 percent of allegations. The authors of the report also warned against placing juvenile inmates with the adult prison population, finding that the incidents of rape and abuse are five times higher than the adult prison population.

The report, however, notes that the administration records used in the surveys do not provide "reliable estimates of sexual violence" because inmates often fail to report instances of sexual violence. The report, which is the second [JURIST report] in an annual series required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 [text, PDF; DOJ backgrounder], showed a marked improvement over staff sexual misconduct and harassment since the initial 2004 study. The BJS is currently seeking a better way to measure sexual violence in prisons, and is considering anonymous self-administered surveys. AP has more.

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