The Department of Justice says that in 2011, Missouri led the nation in prison rape.
The study, which was released last month, looked at sexual misconduct incidents in 700 state and federal prisons beginning in 2009 and going through 2011. It accounted for staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct, as well as inmate-on-inmate incidents.
The study also differentiated between "nonconsensual sexual acts" and "abusive sexual conduct" between inmates, and "sexual misconduct" and "sexual harassment" between staff and inmates. See below for how the sex crimes are defined:
Missouri is in the top half of prison populations in the nation with around 31,000 inmates, so being one of the states with the most prison rapes shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately, however, Missouri is near the top of substantiated rape and sexual misconduct claims and the numbers appear to be on the rise.
In 2009, Missouri had the thirteenth-highest prison population with about 30,519 inmates. That year, there were 56 reported inmate-on-inmate rape allegations and seven were found to be substantiated. Only Ohio had more substantiated rape claims with ten -- the Buckeye State also had about 18,000 more inmates behind bars.
Staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct was higher, with twelve substantiated claims and 128 allegations. Only three states had more: North Carolina with 23, Washington with 17, and Virginia with 13. Indiana, New York, and Vermont also had twelve each.
In 2010, Missouri had the twelfth-highest prison population -- about 30,577 inmates. That year, there were five substantiated inmate-on-inmate rape claims out of 60 allegations. Only Georgia and Michigan had more with six. Both of those states had far bigger prison populations with 47,561 and 44,113, respectively.
Staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct appears to have decreased in 2010. That year, there was only one substantiated claim. However, there were 74 allegations -- enough for sixth highest out of all states.
In 2011, Missouri topped all states in prison rape. Out of 74 inmate-on-inmate allegations, fourteen were found to be substantiated. Texas, with a prison population nearly fives times as large as Missouri's with 141,000 inmates, had eight substantiated rape claims.
Substantiated staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct claims fared a little better, but still disproportionate when the state's prison population is taken into account. With the twelfth-highest prison population, Missouri had the ninth-most staff-on-inmate allegations with six substantiated claims.
Accusations, however, were much higher than the year before with 117 -- fifth-highest in the country.
The numbers of sexual misconduct allegations are not conclusive. Many rapes go unreported, either out of fear, shame, or both. Also, the study only looked at a sampling of local county jails, which don't do the best job of reporting sexual misconduct incidents.
"Public jail administrators were less likely than prison administrators to report sexual victimization based on the definitions provided," the DOJ study says.
Not every local jail is surveyed and of those that are, several refuse to respond to the DOJ survey. For example, in 2010, of the 700 local jail jurisdictions asked to complete the survey, eight refused to respond. Two of those jurisdictions were in Missouri, including the Ray County Sheriff's Office in Henrietta and the St. Louis Department of Public Safety.
As a result, the DOJ study has no record of two incidents involving members of local jail staff who had sexually assaulted inmates.
In 2010, Franklin County jailer Damon Berti was convicted of having sex with a female inmate. Although the inmate said she was forced into the act, Berti said the sex was consensual and a judge dropped the rape charge.
Berti ended up getting getting 120 days behind bars and five years probation, according to the Missourian newspaper.
The following year, Ryan Cole, a jailer in Miller County, had sex with three female inmates. At least one alleged she was assaulted and the act was not consensual. Cole was fired and sentenced to five years of probation, reported KRCG.
Daily RFT reached out to the Missouri Department of Corrections for comment, but have yet to hear back. We'll update when we do.
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