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Psychiatr Serv. 2007 Aug;58(8):1087-94.

Rates of sexual victimization in prison for inmates with and without mental disorders.

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Center for Mental Health Services and Criminal Justice Research, 30 College Avenue, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.



This study estimated the rates of sexual victimization among prison inmates with and without a mental disorder.


The study sampled inmates aged 18 or older in 13 prisons within a single mid-Atlantic state prison system (12 facilities for men and one for women). A total of 7,528 inmates completed the survey instrument, which was administered by audio-computer-assisted technology. Of the 6,964 male respondents, 58.5% were African American, 16.2% were non-Hispanic white, 19.8% were Hispanic, and 5.5% were of another race or ethnicity. Of the 564 female respondents, 48.4% were African American, 30.9% were non-Hispanic white, 14.4% were Hispanic, and 7.3% were of another race or ethnicity. Mental disorder was based on self-reported previous mental health treatment for particular mental disorders. Sexual victimization was measured by using questions adapted from the National Violence Against Women and Men surveys.


Approximately one in 12 male inmates with a mental disorder reported at least one incident of sexual victimization by another inmate over a six-month period, compared with one in 33 male inmates without a mental disorder. Among those with a mental disorder, sexual victimization was three times as high among female inmates (23.4%) as among male inmates (8.3%). African-American and Hispanic inmates with a mental disorder, independent of gender, reported higher rates of sexual victimization than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.


Prisons are hazardous places. Steps must be taken to protect inmates from predators inside prison, to screen them for posttraumatic stress disorder, to provide trauma-related treatment, and to keep them safe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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