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Sexual assault of male inmates: Prevalence, characteristics, & inmate perceptions

5 December 2008


Research on sexual assault in correctional institutions is limited. In response to the dearth of attention to this issue, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 (P.L. 108-79) was passed, calling for the examination of the incidence and effects of prison rape in correctional institutions. Previous researchers have relied on reports to correctional officials as well as self-administered questionnaires and personal interviews often conducted by correctional officials; these approaches have yielded low completion rates and low positive response rates. Thus, estimated prevalence rates of inmate sexual assault have varied and are conservative at best. Additionally, few researchers have included questions regarding inmates' perceptions and opinions of sexual assault within correctional institutions. The current study sought to address the methodological limitations of previous studies by utilizing face-to-face interviews by an interviewer not associated with the Department of Corrections and including questions of inmate perceptions. A total of 50 randomly selected male inmates from medium- and maximum security Oregon state prisons were interviewed regarding both their experiences with sexual assault during incarceration and their general perceptions of sexual assault occurring in correctional settings. In the current study, 3 inmates (6%) reported that they had experienced sexual assault while incarcerated. The alleged perpetrators Included both staff members and other inmates. All of the inmates who reported sexual assault indicated that they were diagnosed with depression, whereas none of the non-sexual assault targets from the same facility reported such symptoms. Although current estimates of prevalence rates of sexual assault in correctional institutions vary, the prevalence found in this study is relatively consistent with current rates.


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