Characteristics of Inmates - Past Abuse And Family Background

jail abused reported table

The Bureau of Justice Statistics published a special report titled Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers in 1999. The report was prepared from survey data collected from state and federal prisoners in 1997, inmates of local jails in 1996, and the 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation. The special report found that 18.7% of state prisoners, 9.5% of federal prisoners, 16.4% of jail inmates, and 15.7% of probationers had experienced abuse before being admitted to prison. The survey relied on the respondents' own definitions of physical and sexual abuse.

A more recent study of abuse among jail inmates is reported in Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002. According to Table 5.6, 18.2% of all jail inmates reported having been either physically or sexually abused. While 13.4% of male inmates reported prior abuse, well over half (55.3%) of female inmates had been abused. Of those men who reported abuse, 11.2% said they had been physically abused, while 4% said it was sexual abuse. For women, the percentages were much higher: 44.9% had been physically abused and 35.9% had been sexually abused. Overall more inmates reported in 2002 that the abuse had occurred before the age of eighteen; however, among female inmates in 2002, more reported abuse after age eighteen. More than 92% knew their abuser, and a parent or guardian had been the abuser in 47.9% of the cases overall.

The same study found that over 46% of jail inmates reported having a close relative who had also been in jail. Over 18% of jail inmates said their father had been incarcerated, 31.4% a brother, and 8.9% a sister. (See Table 5.7.) Nearly 20% of inmates reported that a parent or guardian had abused alcohol when they were growing TABLE 5.6
Prior physical or sexual abuse of jail inmates, 2002 and 1996
SOURCE: Doris J. James, "Table 17. Prior Physical or Sexual Abuse of Jail Inmates, 2002 and 1996," in Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2004, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pji02.pdf (accessed April 2, 2005)

Percent of all jail inmates
All Male Female
2002 1996 2002 1996 2002 1996
Ever physically or sexually abused 18.2% 16.4% 13.4% 12.9% 55.3% 47.5%
Before age 18 10.9 11.6 9.7 10.6 20.3 20.8
After age 18 4.9 2.0 2.3 1.0 25.2 10.9
Both 2.3 2.7 1.4 1.3 9.7 15.8
Physically abused 15.1% 13.3% 11.2% 10.7% 44.9% 37.2%
Sexually abused 7.7 8.7 4.0 5.6 35.9 37.1
Relationship to abuser Percent of abused inmates
Knew abuser 92.4% 86.6% 92.5% 87.9% 92.1% 90.3%
Parent/guardian 47.9 53.2 59.7 60.1 25.7 36.3
Intimate* 30.0 16.6 10.5 3.5 66.7 47.7
Other relatives 17.3 24.4 16.4 21.6 18.9 31.3
Friend/acquaintance 20.7 23.1 13.9 21.7 33.5 26.4
Did not know abuser 7.6% 13.4% 7.5% 12.1% 7.9% 17.9%
Note: Details adds to more than total because more than 1 person may have abused inmates; or some inmates were both physically and sexually abused.
*Includes (ex) spouse, (ex) boyfriend, and (ex) girlfriend.

TABLE 5.7
Family background of jail inmates, 2002 and 1996
SOURCE: Doris J. James, "Table 15. Family Background of Jail Inmates, 2002 and 1996," in Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2004, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pji02.pdf (accessed April 2, 2005)

2002 1996
Person(s) lived with most of the time while growing up:
Both parents 43.6% 39.7%
Mother only 39.2 43.3
Father only 4.4 4.9
Grandparents 10.3 7.0
Other 2.5 5.2
Ever lived in a foster home, agency, or institution while growing up 11.5% 13.6%
Family member ever incarcerated
    Total* 46.3% 46.1%
Father 18.6 17.1
Mother 7.1 4.4
Brother 31.4 30.3
Sister 8.9 6.2
Spouse 1.8 3.3
Child 3.5 1.3
Parent or guardian ever abused alcohol or drugs while inmate was growing up
Alcohol 19.9% 23.1%
Drugs 2.1 1.3
Both alcohol and drugs 8.6 6.9
*Details may not add to total because more than one response was possible.

up. In addition, 2.1% reported that a parent or guardian had abused drugs, and 8.6% reported the use of both drugs and alcohol by a parent or guardian. Less than half of all inmates (43.6%) had been raised in a two-parent family.

TABLE 5.8
Jail inmates with a restraining order, 2002
SOURCE: Doris J. James, "Table 18. Experience of Jail Inmates with a Restraining Order, 2002," in Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2004, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pji02.pdf (accessed April 2, 2005)

Percent of jail inmates
Restraining order All Violent Non-violent
Ever under order 18.6% 24.3% 16.7%
At admission 5.1 7.3 4.4
Ever violated 4.4% 5.1% 4.1%
Violation charge at admission 1.5 2.0 1.3
Percent of inmates ever under a restraining order
Person who sought order*
Parent 3.8% 5.1% 3.1%
Intimate* 75.1 73.1 76.4
Other relative 2.3 2.7 2.2
Other nonrelative 20.5 22.1 19.3
Note: Details add to more than total because more than one person may have sought restraining order.
*Includes (ex-) spouse, (ex-) boyfriend, and (ex-) girlfriend.

Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002 also reported that 18.6% of jail inmates had been under a restraining order at some time. (See Table 5.8.) A restraining order is issued by a court and forbids a named individual from visiting or even approaching the person who has asked for the order. Restraining orders are usually requested by those who fear they may be violently attacked by a former spouse or boyfriend. Over 75% of the restraining orders against jail inmates had been requested by their intimate partners.

TABLE 5.9
Estimated number of state and federal prisoners with minor children, by gender, 1991 and 1999
SOURCE: Christopher J. Mumola, "Table 2. Estimated Number of State and Federal Prisoners with Minor Children, by Gender, 1991 and 1999," in Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2000, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/iptc.pdf (accessed April 2, 2005)

State prisoners Federal prisoners
Total Male Female Total Male Female
Number of parents
1991 413,100 386,500 26,600 39,400 36,500 2,900
1999 642,300 593,800 48,500 79,200 74,100 5,100
Number of minor children
1991 852,300 794,500 57,800 84,200 78,300 5,900
1999 1,324,900 1,209,400 115,500 173,900 163,300 10,600
Note: Numbers are estimates based on responses to the 1991 and 1997 Surveys of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, and custody counts from the National Prisoner Statistics program.

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or