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Characteristics of Prison Sexual Assault Targets in Male Oklahoma Correctional Facilities

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 595-606
Christopher Hensley; Richard Tewksbury; Tammy Castle
Date Published
June 2003
12 pages
Face-to-face interviews with 174 inmates in 3 male Oklahoma correctional facilities from August 1998 to May 1999 identified characteristics of inmates who had drawn attempted or completed sexual assaults from other inmates.
Of the 174 inmates interviewed, 24 (13.8 percent) reported being sexually targeted, and 2 inmates (1.1 percent) reported being victims of sexual assault in prison. Fifty-eight percent of the sexual-assault targets were White, while only 44 percent of the interview sample was White; a lower percentage of African-Americans (29 percent) reported being targets for sexual assaults compared to a 39-percent representation in the sample. Approximately 66 percent of sexual targets were single compared to 50 percent of the sample being single. Approximately 42 percent of the targets were heterosexual compared to 78 percent of the sample being heterosexual. Bisexuals composed 13 percent of the sample but represented 42 percent of the targets. Forty-six percent of the targets were housed in a maximum-security prison (lockdown for 23 hours a day) compared to 30 percent of the interview sample being in a maximum-security facility. The average age of targets was 20.5 years (median age of 18.5 years). Targets had been incarcerated an average of 143 days before the first sexual encounter. Eighty-eight percent of the targets reported being threatened only once, with one reporting two threats, and two reporting three or more sexual threats. The race of the 40 perpetrators reported by the targets interviewed was 38 percent White, 58 percent African-American, and 4 percent Hispanic. Eighty-five percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the targets. Policy implications of these findings pertain to training for correctional officers that will help prevent inmate-on-inmate sexual assaults and the use of protective custody that does not deprive inmates of the privileges and services available to the general inmate population. 1 table and 19 references