The Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report indicating that the state of Oklahoma leads all other U.S. prisons, including male prisons, in sexual assault incidents.

According to the report, 15.3 percent of inmates at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, OK reported inmate-on-inmate sexual assault. This rate doubles the national average and surpasses the leading male facility, Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley, FL. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which was aimed at studying the parameters and causes of sexual assaults in prisons.

Another part of the study indicated that 3.5 percent of inmates reported sexual abuse by the hands of the prison staff, but that’s not the highest rate. The highest rate of inmate sexual misconduct belongs to Santa Rosa Correctional Inst. in Milton, FL with a 10.1 percent rate.

Because of apparent negligent care on behalf of the staff, 11 female inmates at Mabel Bassett are suing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC). The federal lawsuit alleges that three prison staff members assaulted these women and now the ODOC is remaining quiet on all matters regarding prison sexual assaults.

Oklahoma has a notorious reputation for its prison system as the state has the highest per capita female incarceration rate in the world. There have also been some serious missteps in the state’s political system regarding the prison system. Private prison contractors have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Oklahoma politics to maintain their grasp on the state.

Recently proposed prison reforms have caused a stir in the Oklahoma governor’s office as there has been on-and-off support for the reforms. The reforms have been called “soft on crime” by critics and some reform supporters have called out that appearing soft on crime disrupts chances for elective votes.

“In order to get elected in Oklahoma, you have to be . . . ‘tough on crime,’” said former Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele.   

Private prison contractors donate money to state politicians, and the state politicians push tough-on-crime laws to keep the prisons packed. Private prisons take their pick of inmates and leave those prone to violence or health issues for the state, as they are more expensive to house and supervise.

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.