The federal government has issued new and startling information regarding the prevalence of sexual assaults in state and federal detention facilities. According to a first-time national inmate survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated total of 60,500 inmates have been sexually assaulted in the past year. Two Colorado prisons participated in the survey, which was administered to randomly chosen facilities across the country.As Colorado Confidential reported in October, data on the prevalence of sexual assaults in penal institutions is lacking due to limited government studies and the reality that not all inmates report such incidents. But under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act passed by a Congress in 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics was required to “develop a new national data collection on the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault” in correctional institutions, including inmate surveys of no less than 10 percent of all “federal, state, and county prisons, and a representative sample of municipal prisons.”
On Sunday, Dec. 16, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released results for the first survey conducted under the new legislation. The agency administered questionnaires to 146 state and federal prisons in April and August of this year, asking inmates about sexual abuse that had taken place in the past 12 months. Previous bureau reports have been based on administrative records or complaints of sexual assaults, rather than anonymous inmate surveys.
At the Fremont Correctional Facility in Canon City, Colo., survey results showed that an estimated 5.2 percent of inmates at the facility had been assaulted in the last year. The state’s High Plains Correctional Facility, a privately run medium security facility for adult females in Brush, Colo., also showed an estimated 5.9 percent of inmates had been assaulted in the last year.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics survey results also reported numbers showing that the majority of sexual violence at Fremont took place on an inmate-to-inmate basis, while at High Plains, the results showed more staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. Fremont contains a population of approximately 1,500 prisoners, and High Plains has 232 inmates, according to the state Department of Corrections.
The survey was restricted to adult confinement facilities and did not include immigration detention facilities, juvenile facilities, or half-way houses.