Sexual Violence in State and Federal Prisons


On September 2003, both Houses of Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). This act was aimed to establish a zero-tolerance policy for the incidence of rape in United States prisons, making this prevention a top priority in the prison system and correcting unethical behavior between staff and inmates. A study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics ranked Texas prisons among the 10 U.S. prisons with the highest rates of inmate-reported sexual assaults. In 2007, reporters discovered that more than 750 juvenile detainees across the state of Texas had allegedly been sexually abused by staff over the previous six years. But these statistics do not include the many victims and witnesses that went unreported due to fear of retaliation and being harmed if they spoke out. After 13 years since PREA’s enactment, Texas has continued to fail to control sexual violence within its prisons.

There are certain prisoners who are targeted for sexual assault the moment they enter a penal institution. This research determines which type of report for sexual victimization in prisons has decreased after the first year of PREA (2004) was enacted compared to the most recent years of discovered data (2011). According to Justice Department of Texas, some 8,000 institutions are supposed to be audited for sexual safety by August 2016, but only 335 had been completed by March. The theory of this research is that there are more reported allegations recently compared to the first year of the PREA. The research will include reports from state and federal correctional authorities.

This research is relevant because it creates an awareness of this important policy that is going on behind bars. Staff misconduct and inmate-on-inmate allegations should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, even after the PREA was enacted, these allegations are still happening every day in correctional facilities. Prison was not designed to facilitate continued criminal acts, but to serve as a rehabilitation center and deterrent of further criminal activity. Sexual violence has been going on for many years and we should make this issue unacceptable for any reason.

Correctional administrators conduct survey forms from the U.S Census Bureau to report allegations. To define sexual victimization, the survey forms classify each sexual act by the perpetrator and type of act. After collecting total allegations that were reported to the U.S. Census Bureau by correctional facilities, most allegations were found unsubstantiated or unfounded. Allegations that were classified as unsubstantiated or unfounded had the highest total numbers within each year. There is also a margin of error when it comes to gathering statistics. The most common outcome is simply because it’s difficult to have proof of evidence or the victim’s fear of being punished by their perpetrator. After a couple of years since the PREA was enacted, there hasn’t been any significant decrease of reports. The following figures show reports that are allegations, sustained, unsustained, or unfounded from 2004 and 2011.

(Figure 1: Staff misconduct with inmates reported by State and Federal prison authorities, 2004)
(Figure 2: Inmate-on-inmate sexual violence reported by State and Federal prison authorities, 2009–11)

In 2004, the year after PREA was enacted, reports of allegations were small compare to the recently discovered data. There aren’t any significant trends with the years of 2004 and 2011 since there wasn’t any dramatic changes. Both figures do not share any sort of trend as every year goes by. Whether it’s inmate-on-inmate allegations or staff misconduct, both actions need to be taken more seriously to prevent these numbers increasing over time. These reports show how PREA’s message has yet to be fully internalized by prison authorities.

Works Cited

1. Brook, Daniel. “The Problem of Prison Rapes.” Legal Affairs. N.p., Apr. 2004. Web. <>.

2. “National Prison Rape Elimination Commission Report.” NPREC, June 2009. Web. <>.

3. Bozelko, Chandra. “Why We Let Prison Rape Go On.” New York Times. N.p., 17 Apr. 2015. Web. <>.

4. “Sexual Victimization Reported by Adult Correctional Authorities.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (n.d.): n. pag. Bureau of Justice Statistics. BJS, Jan. 2014. Web. <>

5. “Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. BJS, July 2003. Web. <>.