Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 835–848 | Cite as

Sexual Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization

  • Nancy WolffEmail author
  • Cynthia L. Blitz
  • Jing Shi
  • Ronet Bachman
  • Jane A. Siegel


People in prison are exposed to and experience sexual violence inside prisons, further exposing them to communicable diseases and trauma. The consequences of sexual violence follow the individual into the community upon release. This paper estimates the prevalence of sexual victimization within a state prison system. A total of 6,964 men and 564 women participated in a survey administered using audio-CASI. Weighted estimates of prevalence were constructed by gender and facility size. Rates of sexual victimization varied significantly by gender, age, perpetrator, question wording, and facility. Rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in the previous 6 months were highest for female inmates (212 per 1,000), more than four times higher than male rates (43 per 1,000). Abusive sexual conduct was more likely between inmates and between staff and inmates than nonconsensual sexual acts. Sexual violence inside prison is an urgent public health issue needing targeted interventions to prevent and ameliorate its health and social consequences, which spatially concentrate in poor inner-city areas where these individuals ultimately return.


Inmate sexual assault Prison rape Staff-on-inmate sexual assault. 



This study was supported by the Office of Justice Programs (Grant #0JP-2004-RP-BX-0012) and the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant #P20 MH66170).


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Wolff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cynthia L. Blitz
  • Jing Shi
  • Ronet Bachman
  • Jane A. Siegel
  1. 1.Center for Mental Health Services & Criminal Justice ResearchRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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