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Sex in Prison: Exploring the Myths and Realities

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 75 Issue: 4 Dated: (December 1995) Pages: 413-430
C A Saum; H L Surratt; J A Inciardi; R E Bennett
Date Published
18 pages
To explore the nature and frequency of sexual contact between male inmates in a Delaware prison, the authors administered a survey of sexual behavior.
In March and April 1994, voluntary interviews were conducted with male inmates in a medium-security Delaware prison who were part of the facility's treatment program for drug abusers. A total of 101 inmates were willing participants and were ultimately interviewed. Ninety-two percent of the respondents were African-American, 5 percent were White-Anglo, and 3 percent were Hispanic. Survey questions were framed primarily to assess sexual activities among inmates and the respondents' personal sexual experiences while in prison. Respondents were asked about sexual activities that they may have heard about, observed, or participated in while living within the general prison population during the year before entering the treatment community. Secondary topics included respondents' incarceration histories, early sexual experiences, and previous drug treatment experiences. Findings show that although sexual contact between inmates may not be widespread, it does occur; the preponderance of the activity is consensual sex rather than rape; and inmates themselves perceive the myth of pervasive sex in prison, contradicting their own experience. These findings are evidenced by the small percentage of inmates who had ever heard of rapes occurring or observed rapes compared to the greater proportions of respondents who had heard about consensual sex occurring or seen consensual sex occur over a 1-year period. Only two inmates reported attempted rapes, and no inmate reported being raped during the 1-year period about which they were questioned. 10 tables, 8 notes, and 25 references