After more than four decades of research, it is still unclear how much rape and sexually violent activity occurs in prisons,
jails, and other corrections facilities in the United States. What is clear from research is that, as with rape in free society,
prison rape goes largely unreported.
Of the hundreds of studies in institutional corrections, less than 25 research studies have been conducted on prison rape.
Of those studies, some asked inmates to describe their victimizations, including nonconsensual activities other than rape,
while others examined official reports filed by inmates. Because none of these studies were national in scope, it remains
difficult to estimate the extent of the problem. A meta-analysis of this research estimates a 1.91 percent lifetime prevalence
for all inmates in the United States. 
In 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) examined administrative records from adult and juvenile facilities at State
and local levels. According to these official records, slightly more than 8,000 male, female, and juvenile inmates—or 0.005
percent of the total incarcerated population—reported that they had been victims of sexual violence while incarcerated. An
even smaller percentage of inmates' claims were substantiated. 
Thus, although the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) 2003 states that 13 percent of all inmates have been raped in American
prisons and jails, the most recent research estimates less prevalence of rape, whether inmate-on-inmate or staff-on-inmate
sexual misconduct., 
Whether the number of prison rapes is large or small, the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 requires that Federal, State,
and local correctional facilities maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault, including inmate-on-inmate
and staff-on-inmate misconduct. NIJ was given the task under PREA to conduct research on rape in prisons, jails, and lock-up
 Gaes, G.G., and A.L. Goldberg, Prison Rape: A Critical Review of the Literature, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2004, NCJ 213365.
,  Beck, A.G., and T.A. Hughes, Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities, 2004. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 210333.
 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Data Collections for the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 206109.
Date Reviewed: June 7, 2010