Prison Rape

Prison and rape are seen to some as synonymous and something to joke about, but there are others working to make sure rape isn’t part of a prisoner’s sentence.

Prisoners of all types, men, women, LGBT and juvenile detainees, face the possibility of rape from other inmates, but there can be are other perpetrators.

“Victims of sexual violence who are incarcerated are most likely to be assaulted by jail or prison staff.”1 The perpetrator can be male or female.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is a federal law designed to protect incarcerated people from rape, and “also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and charged it with developing draft standards for the elimination of prison rape.”2

The sourced articles below should provide you more information on rapes that occur in prisons.

Footnotes: 1. “Perpetrators Of Sexual Violence: Statistics,”, accessed 10/10/2018; 2. “Prison Rape Elimination Act,”, accessed 10/10/2018

  1. Prison Rape Elimination Act

    “The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress. The purpose of the act was to ‘provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.’ … The act also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and charged it with developing draft standards for the elimination of prison rape.”

    National PREA Resource Center,, accessed on 10/10/2018

  2. Just Detention International: Our Mission

    “Contrary to popular opinion, sexual abuse in detention is preventable. Prisons and jails with committed leaders, good policies, and sound practices can keep people safe. JDI works with policymakers, advocates, and corrections officials to ensure the basic human rights of all people in detention, in the U.S. and globally. All of JDI’s [Just Detention International’s] work is informed by the wisdom and experiences of prisoner rape survivors. When the government removes someone’s freedom, it takes on an absolute responsibility to keep that person safe. No matter what crime someone may have committed, rape is not part of the penalty.”

    Just Detention International,, accessed on 10/10/2018

  3. Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)

    “The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is a federal law that prohibits sexual misconduct in correctional settings such as prisons, jails, lockups, juvenile facilities, and Immigration Services/ICE detention facilities . Sexual misconduct under this law includes:
    [1.] Inmate-on-inmate sexual assault and abuse …
    [2.] Staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct (sexual/inappropriate relationships with inmates) …
    [3.] Inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate sexual harassment …
    The Department of Correction’s (DOC) policies regarding sexual misconduct apply to all inmates, both incarcerated in a prison or work release facility and on community supervision. They also apply to employees, contractors, and volunteers.”

    Washington State Department of Corrections,, accessed on 10/10/2018, (Broken link removed 6/2023)

  4. Perpetrators Of Sexual Violence: Statistics

    “Victims of sexual violence who are incarcerated are most likely to be assaulted by jail or prison staff … In jail or prison, 60% of all sexual violence against inmates is perpetrated by the institution’s staff.”

    Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network )RAINN),, accessed on 10/10/2018

  5. Prison Rape Allegations Are On The Rise

    “In 2011, before the national standards were issued, there were 8,768 allegations of sexual assault and harassment nationwide. By the end of 2015, that total had jumped to 24,661, a leap of more than 180 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, which compiles the numbers it collects from corrections departments. Still, the report shows, corrections administrators rarely decide that the alleged attacks actually happened. The number of accusations found to be true increased only slightly, while the number of allegations that were eventually found to be false or inconclusive skyrocketed.”

    Alysia Santo,, 7/25/2018

  6. PREA Data Collection Activities, 2018

    “Highlights: Correctional administrators reported 24,661 allegations of sexual victimization in 2015, nearly triple the number recorded in 2011 (8,768 allegations).
    Substantiated allegations rose from 902 in 2011 to 1,473 in 2015 (up 63%). (Substantiated allegations are those in which an investigation determined that an event occurred, based on a preponderance of the evidence.) …”

    Jessica Stroop, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Statistician,, 6/29/2018

  7. Ending Sexual Assault In Youth Detention Centers

    “At the turn of the 21st century, a Human Rights Watch report detailed the extent of the prison rape problem. Soon after, in 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act. However, 15 years have passed, and the rates of sexual victimization in youth detention facilities, jails and prisons remain high, particularly among juveniles compared to adults.”

    Eileen M. Ahlin, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, Pennsylvania State University,, 5/8/2018

  8. Advocates For Transgender Prisoners Applaud Recent Rulings

    “2003: The Prison Rape Elimination Act is signed into law. The sweeping law requires that prisons make decisions about where to house transgender people on a case-by-case basis, rather than going by genital characteristics or gender at birth.”

    Associated Press,,5/3/2018

  9. Prison Rape Widely Ignored By Authorities

    “The American prison system has been described as a ‘sexual jungle,’ where there are predators and prey. Experts say some prison officials quietly permit rape as a way to control the population.
    ‘Where the predators — the more violent, powerful inmates — are in effect being given a bribe or a reward to cooperate with the prison authorities,’ says Harvard University criminologist Dr. James Gilligan. ‘As long as they cooperate, the prison authorities will permit them to have their victims.'”

    Dan Harris,, 4/16/2018

  10. We Can’t Fight Rape Culture Without Fighting Mass Incarceration

    “Importantly, prison sexual violence isn’t just a result of prisoner misconduct, but guard violence and institutional complicity. In a survey of LGBT incarcerated people conducted by the anti-prison group Black & Pink, 12 percent of respondents said they had been raped or sexually assaulted by prison staff. Of the 31 percent of prisoners who reported being assaulted by another prisoner, 76 percent said that they were intentionally placed at risk by prison staff.”

    Aviva Stahl,, 2/20/2018

  11. Remembering Youth In Adult Jails & Prisons During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

    “The American prison system has a reputation for being unsafe, particularly for those at an elevated risk of being victims of sexual violence. In the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), Congress noted that ‘juveniles are 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult rather than juvenile facilities- often within the first 48 hours of incarceration,’ and therefore they need special protections.”

    William Tipton, Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ),, 3/30/2017

  12. The Prison Rape Elimination Act And Beyond: Sexual Violence In Detention

    “The data collected by the BJS has been, in a word, game-changing. Based on the surveys, the BJS estimates that 200,000 people are sexually abused in US detention facilities in a single year. This finding is completely depressing, and it illustrates the scope of the problem we have on our hands. But the data is not all grim. It showed that many prisons and jails had virtually no incidents of sexual abuse – belying the myth that rape behind bars is inevitable.”

    Linda McFarlane, Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, Just Detention International,, 11/9/2016

  13. Report On Sexual Victimization In Prisons, Jails, And Juvenile Correctional Facilities, April 2016

    “Among state and federal prison inmates, 2.0% reported an incident of sexual victimization involving another inmate; 2.4% reported an incident involving facility staff; and 0.4% reported sexual victimization by both another inmate and staff. … Among jail inmates, 1.6% reported an incident of sexual victimization involving another inmate; 1.8% reported an incident involving facility staff; and 0.2% reported sexual victimization by both another inmate and staff. … Inmates who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or ‘other’ reported higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization and staff sexual misconduct than heterosexual inmates. … Among adjudicated youth, 2.5% reported an incident of sexual victimization involving another youth, and 7.7% reported an incident involving facility staff. …”

    Review Panel on Prison Rape, DOJ Office of Justice Programs,, 4/15/2016