If you, like many others, have ever had to spend time in a New York prison, you may have firsthand knowledge of the sexual abuse problem that is becoming increasingly prevalent in correctional facilities. According to ThinkProgress, somewhere between four and 10 percent of American prison inmates suffer sexual abuse while serving time, with female prisoners more likely to become victims of such abuse than males.
Additionally, while more than 21 percent of female victims who suffered sexual abuse in prison did so at the hands of other inmates, about 7.5 percent of female prisoners suffered said abuse at the hands of prison staff members.
Allegations on the rise
According to one 2014 study involving the prevalence of sexual abuse among prison inmates, about half of all of accused sexual abusers were also staff members at the correctional facilities the abuse allegations arose from. However, in many cases, higher-ups never investigated those abuse allegations, while in others, investigators listened to allegations, but ultimately tossed them out.
More specifically, only about 10 percent of the allegations prisoners made about sexual abuse ever sparked formal investigations, meaning authorities or prison representatives never followed up on about 90 percent of the allegations made. The study’s findings are increasingly problematic because the study also revealed that only one percent of all involved in sexual misconduct in prison received criminal convictions for their actions. In many situations, accused sexual abusers were let go from their jobs, but about a third of all accused abusers were allowed to resign and work elsewhere in a similar capacity.
A culture of fear
Because so many prisoners who came forward about sexual abuse never saw their abusers punished, other prisoners who are victims of such behavior may be unlikely to come forward with their own allegations of abuse. Furthermore, because many victims of sexual abuse behind bars may hesitate to speak out, the actual prevalence of this type of behavior in American prisons is hard to gauge.
Prison inmates still have certain rights, and they do not have to simply accept sexual abuse when it comes from prison staff members or anyone else.