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Female prison in Oklahoma has highest rape rate in U.S.

A federal report placed the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center at the top of the list for sexual violence in female prisons, however, due to a pending lawsuit state Corrections Department officials declined to testify at a Department of Justice hearing on the matter this week.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: January 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: January 12, 2014

Despite a federal report that found incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence were double the national average at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, representatives from the prison declined to testify at an annual Department of Justice hearing on the matter Wednesday.

The 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found 15.3 percent of the inmates surveyed at the female facility reported some form of sexual abuse or rape from another inmate. This rate was highest in the nation for female institutions.

The study was done as part of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a 2003 federal law aimed at identifying the causes of sexual victimization in prisons and the types of inmates who are most vulnerable.

“We found that the Mabel Bassett facility uniquely stood out as a high-rate facility,” said Allen Beck, a BJS statistician.

“There's no question that what we're observing here is a significant amount of physical force, pressure, and coercion are involved.”

The purpose of the hearings is to assist the bureau's research by gaining insight from prison officials and administration on what policies and procedures work and which ones do not.

A higher than average proportion of undereducated inmates, those experiencing high levels of psychological stress or mental disorders, and offenders who identify as non-heterosexual are all contributing factors to the facility's elevated levels of sexual victimization, Beck said.

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Female inmates typically report more incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence than males. Of the 193 inmates anonymously surveyed at the facility that houses more than 1,000 offenders, 3.5 percent also reported incidents of sexual victimization at the hands of staff, just over 1 percent higher than the national average.

In July 2013, 11 women serving time in Oklahoma prisons filed a federal lawsuit claiming they were sexually assaulted by three guards at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. That lawsuit is ongoing and is the reason why the state Corrections Department declined to testify at Wednesday's hearing, said Jerry Massie, department spokesman.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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