Spending time in a Colorado jail or prison is difficult enough, but many jails and prisons across the state and nation also see high rates of violence and sexual abuse among prisoners and staff members. Many prisoners are reluctant to call attention to the unfavorable treatment they receive while behind bars, either because they fear facing biases or because they believe it is not going to help in any way.
How common is violence, sexual and otherwise, in America’s jails and prisons, and are the allegations of today’s prisoners receiving the attention they deserve?
By the numbers
According to Pennsylvania State University, violence and sexual abuse have become increasingly prevalent in prisons across the nation in recent years. In 2011, U.S. prisoners reported 8,768 instances of violence and sexual abuse within the nation’s prison system. By 2015, this number had risen to 180%, with 24,661 such claims made by prisoners that year.
A lack of action
Many advocates believe that these numbers only tell part of the story and that the actual rates of violence and sexual assault or abuse within U.S. prisons is much higher. According to one U.S. Bureau of Justice report, between 2012 and 2015, prisoners made 61,316 claims about sexual or violent mistreatment behind bars. Of those claims, correctional officers considered only 8.5%, or 5,187 of them, to be valid.
Nothing ever came of the rest of them, making other prisoners more reluctant to come forward with their own allegations because they feared a similar lack of action upon doing so.