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Bureau of Justice Statistics Recognized for Studies on Prison Rape
June 5, 2014 Posted by

Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and its data collection agents received the 2014 Policy Impact Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) for their innovative and salient efforts to measure sexual victimization in correctional facilities under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA).

AAPOR, a leading association of survey research professionals, stated in the award citation, “the findings, and their extensive publicity, have triggered special investigations by governors and state legislatures and immediate changes in policies and plans of action. Findings from the project are now cited extensively in training for correctional administrators on how to prevent and respond to prison rape. Without these data, national standards for best practices to eliminate rape and other related violence among prisoners could not have been promulgated.”

BJS has released 14 separate reports on prison rape since 2004. Television, print media, researchers and public interest groups extensively covered the findings at local, state and national levels. Coverage included 32 articles in newspapers and magazines and a series of four articles in The New York Review of Books.

AAPOR selected the PREA team for its outstanding work developing a state-of-the art, multi-measure, multi-mode approach that relied on both victim self-report surveys and administrative records. When Congress passed the PREA bill in 2003 it required BJS to measure sexual victimization in correctional facilities and publish rankings of facilities with the highest and lowest rates of sexual victimization. At that time there was no infrastructure for such a data collection and there was little agreement on a methodology that would generate accurate estimates. Both inmate self‐reports of sexual victimization and reports from facility administrators were considered high risk for both over-reporting and underreporting of incidents.

“We had to develop a complex statistical infrastructure that would enable us to measure a very sensitive issue that was far more nuanced than we knew,” said Allen J. Beck, BJS Senior Statistical Advisor and program lead. “The prison rape data collection represents a 10-year effort to build a program for accurately measuring the prevalence of sexual victimization in the nation’s more than 7,600 correctional facilities covered under PREA,” he added.

The BJS-led team actively reached out to all stakeholders as it developed survey protocols, measurement strategies and reporting criteria. The team established definitions of sexual victimization that would hold true for each survey and facility, addressed complex human subject concerns such as protecting respondents from retaliation by other inmates or facility staff, set statistical standards for defining high-rate facilities and developed a plan for disseminating the findings. Almost immediately upon release, the BJS data led to several direct policy or program actions at local, state, and federal levels.

The PREA statistics program includes four separate collections: the Survey on Sexual Violence, the National Inmate Survey, the National Survey of Youth in Custody, and the National Former Prisoner Survey. These combined surveys reach a level of data collection not seen previously. They assess the incidence of sexual victimization in correctional facilities through victim self-reporting, survey facilities’ administrative records, reach out to ex-offenders now living in the community, and survey youth held in juvenile and adult facilities.

The PREA effort shows the effectiveness of combining the talents of BJS and four major data collection agencies―RTI International, Westat, NORC at the University of Chicago, and the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition to Allen J. Beck, BJS principal staff involved in the PREA research were former BJS statisticians Paige M. Harrison, Paul Guerino and Christopher J. Mumola. Among the data collection agencies, the principal staff included David Cantor, John Hartge and Tim Smith at Westat; Marcus Berzofsky, Rachel Caspar and Christopher Krebs at RTI International; Candace Johnson at NORC; and Greta Clark at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Allen J. Beck accepted the 2014 Policy Impact Award from AAPOR on behalf of the PREA team at the annual AAPOR conference in Anaheim, Calif. on May 17.

Dr. Beck is also a former recipient of the Attorney General’s Award for his work on PREA.

Visit for all BJS PREA-related reports and documents and additional information about BJS’s statistical publications and programs.


New Report: U.S. Homicide Rate Falls to Lowest Rate in Four Decades
November 18, 2011 Posted by

This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced that in 2010 the U.S. homicide rate fell to 4.2 homicides per 100,000 residents, the lowest U.S. homicide rate in four decades.  

The new homicide statistics are part of a report by BJS: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008, which details homicide patterns and trends in the United States from 1980 to 2008. 

Overall, the U.S. has experienced a significant drop in the total homicide rate since 1980. In 1980, the U.S. homicide rate hovered at 10.2 per 100,000 residents, more than twice the current homicide rate. In the early 1980s, the homicide rate gradually fell for a few years but rose again beginning in the middle of the decade, peaking at an all-time high of 24,703 homicides in 1991. Since the homicide rate spiked in the early 1990s, it subsequently declined, reaching a four-decade low last year. 

Much of the decline in the nation’s homicide rate is due to a decrease in homicides occurring in large cities — defined as cities with at least 100,000 residents. Since 1980, 57.7 percent of homicides in the U.S. have occurred in large cities, and more than one third of those homicides occurred in the nation’s largest cities — defined as cities with at least 1 million residents. 

The BJS report shows that the largest cities experienced a dramatic decrease in homicide rates since 1980, which is a prominent factor in the total drop in the nation’s homicide rate. From 1991 to 2008, the homicide rate in the largest cities was cut by nearly two thirds, falling from 35.5 homicides per 100,000 residents in 1991 to 11.9 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2008.                                                                                                                            

In addition to mapping out homicide rates by year and region, the study paints a detailed picture of U.S. homicides by breaking down homicide numbers by a variety of other criteria including:

  • Victim/Offender Relationship: More than 56 percent of homicide victims were acquaintances with the assailant.
  • Weapon: Handgun-involved homicides increased in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and fell to a low in 2008.
  • Circumstance: The number of homicides that occurred during the commission of another felony, such as a robbery or burglary, declined from about 5,300 homicides in 1991 to 2,600 homicides in 2000, then stabilized through 2008.                                                          

For more information about homicide trends over the last three decades, please visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics website and read the full report.

10 Facts on Female Victims of Violence
October 21, 2009 Posted by

This month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released their latest report on Female Victims of Violence (PDF). The report focuses on intimate partner violence, rape and sexual assault, and stalking. It includes estimates of the extent of crimes against females and the characteristics of crimes and victims. The following 10 facts are a small sampling of findings from the report.  

  • In 2008, females age 12 or older were five times more likely than males age 12 or older to be victims of intimate partner violence. 
  • In 2007 intimate partners committed 14% of all homicides in the U.S.
  • The total estimated number of intimate partner homicide victims in 2007 was 2,340, including 1,640 females and 700 males.
  • Females made up 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner in 2007, a proportion that has changed very little since 1993.
  • Females are generally murdered by people they know. In 64% of female homicide cases in 2007, females were killed by a family member or intimate partner.
  • The overall rate of female homicides fell 43%  between 1993 and 2007.
  • Between 1993 and 2008 the rate of rape or sexual assault against females declined by 70% (from 4.7 to 1.4 per 1,000 females age 12 or older).    The rate of rape or sexual assault against males declined by 36% between 1993 and 2008 (from 0.5 to 0.3 per 1,000 males age 12 or older).
  • One in five rape or sexual assaults against females (20%) was committed by an intimate partner.
  • During a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006, an estimated 3.4 million persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking.
  • Females were at higher risk of stalking victimization than males.   During the study period, females experienced 20 stalking victimizations per 1,000 females age 18 or older. The rate of stalking victimization for males was approximately 7 per 1,000 males age 18 or older.

October has been recognized by President Obama and The Department of Justice as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The findings in this report, while not limited to domestic violence, certainly remind us of why awareness around this issue is so critical

If you, or someone you know, are a victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 (TTY). For more information on resources that may be available to you, visit:


Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s (UCR) Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR). The full report as a PDF is available at the Bureau of Justice Statistics Web site.

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