(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Bureau of Prisons “has not been able to identify the prevalence and scope of inmate-on-staff sexual harassment,” a new report released by the Justice Department’s inspector general found, adding that the problem is “widespread” and affects female officers.
But the Bureau of Prisons does not keep accurate data of these incidents, according to the IG.
“Despite the inadequacy of BOP data on inmate-on-staff sexual harassment, we were able to determine that inmate-on-staff sexual harassment occurs across BOP institutions and that BOP staff believe that it particularly affects women,” the report said. “Additionally, inmate-on-staff sexual harassment has negative effects on both the BOP and its staff that can lead to unsafe work environments and can cause staff emotional and physical stress.”
The problem, according to the IG, is “widespread” and has an acute impact on female employees.
“Despite the incompleteness of BOP data regarding inmate-on-staff sexual harassment, we were able to determine that inmate-on-staff sexual harassment occurs across BOP institutions and that BOP staff believe that it particularly affects female employees,” the IG report said.
A survey of BOP staff done by the inspector general found that 47% of female officers had an inmate expose themselves to that officer and 34% of female officers reported inmates stalking them. Comparatively, only 1.8% of male officers reported inmates stalking them.
Between 2015 and 2021, the IG found that there were at least 12,127 offenses related to sexual acts between inmates and staff victims.
“We found that high security facilities had a substantially higher average number of sanctioned incidents each month compared to administrative security facilities, low security facilities, and the component-wide averages for the most severe prohibited act codes,” the IG report said.
In turn, these instances negatively affect the Bureau of Prisons, specifically the morale of officers, the IG said.
“Throughout this evaluation, we found that when inmate-on-staff sexual harassment is not appropriately and consistently addressed and mitigated it could harm the reputation and credibility of the BOP and that BOP staff believe that it also compromises the safety and security of BOP staff and reduces staff morale,” the report said.
The Bureau of Prisons told ABC News in a statement its mission is to “operate facilities that are safe, secure, and humane. We take seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody, as well as maintain the safety of correctional staff and the community.
“The BOP has zero-tolerance for all forms of sexual activity, including sexual abuse and sexual harassment within our facilities,” its BOP said. “The protection and safety of all staff is a top priority of our agency. BOP has a robust collection of resources for managing inmate sexual misconduct toward staff.”
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