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Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 34 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2007 Pages: 588-599
Nancy Wolff; Cynthia L. Blitz; Jing Shi; Jane Siegel; Ronet Bachman
Date Published
May 2007
12 pages
This study examined the prevalence rates of inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate physical victimization.
The results of this study confirm the stereotype that prisons are violent places. Over a 6-month period, 20 percent of inmates reported experiencing some form of physical violence, measured in terms of being hit, slapped, kicked, bit, choked, beat up, or hit with or threatened with a weapon. The prevalence rates of inmate-on-inmate physical violence in the previous 6-months were equal for males and females. Male inmates had significantly higher rates of physical violence perpetrated by staff than by other inmates. Physical victimization was not uniform across facilities. Small facilities were associated with above average rates of inmate-on-inmate physical violence, but below average rates of staff-on-inmate physical violence. Large facilities were found to be the opposite. The results indicate that the risk of victimization varies significantly across institutional settings, warranting careful attention. Official estimates of physical violence inside prison have grossly underrepresented the level and type of victimization inside prison. No nationally representative surveys have been undertaken to improve on these official estimates of physical victimization inside prisons. This study explored the time served in prison on the index offense and 6-month prevalence of physical victimization within a State prison system, inclusive of both male and female facilities. The study population consisted of all inmates (N = 22,898) housed at 13 adult male prisons and 1 female prison operated by a single mid-Atlantic State. A total of 7,221 males and 564 females aged 18 and older participated in the study. Tables, appendix and references