Prison Rape: The Data

Writing in The New York Review of Books, David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow take a detailed look at the data on sexual abuse in prisons and jails. There's far more in the article than I can summarize in a short blog post, and I recommend you read the whole piece. But this is a passage worth highlighting:

The new studies confirm previous findings that most of those who commit sexual abuse in detention are corrections staff, not inmates. That is true in all types of detention facilities, but especially in juvenile facilities. The new studies also confirm that most victims are abused repeatedly during the course of a year. In juvenile facilities, victims of sexual misconduct by staff members were more likely to report eleven or more instances of abuse than a single, isolated occurrence.

And here is a passage where the authors step away from the statistics and zero in on a particular person's experience:

A.A. is a gay man who had a prior history of being sexually abused—again, the two characteristics that most strongly predict rape in jail—but he wasn't asked about either of these things when he was admitted to the OPP. Instead he was put in a crowded communal cell where he was beaten, choked until he passed out, cut with a knife, masturbated upon, and orally and anally gang-raped by other inmates "so many times I lost count."

There were no security cameras in the cell and no guards around to hear him screaming. He filed grievances claiming that he had been raped, but they went unanswered. ("We dropped the ball on that," said a representative of the OPP at the hearing.) When he finally found the courage to ask a guard for help directly, he was laughed at and told, "a faggot raped in prison—imagine that."

Read the rest here. Read Reason's special issue on mass incarceration here.

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  • Bill Dalasio||

    Okay, that was just the ticket to be made sick to my stomach.

  • sarcasmic||

  • Aloysious||

    +1 Tool

  • Dyasnina||

    Uh no you still need to police the inmates, even if you're futilely trying to rehabilitate them.

  • Brett L||

    Glad to see PREA data being parsed into meaningful trends. Not at all surprised to see that Corrections officers are responsible for the majority of rapes or that they could fix a huge portion of the minority they are not responsible for at any time.

  • Jordan||

    Jesse really swung for the fences with that nutpunch.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    That wasn't the fences he was swinging at...ow...

  • Hugh Akston||

    We'll all be nursing sore balls for the rest of the week.

  • Andrew S.||

    This is why Reason was better when Balko was still here. I mean, when he was around, you knew where the nutpunches would come from, and you could do as much as you could to protect yourself. Now? Nutpunches could come from anyone, at any time.

  • MJGreen||

    Really, it's Monday. Monday, for crying out loud!

  • Loki||

    It's like you could just be going along, minding your own business, reading some H&R posts, maybe a few comments threads, and then POW!!! Like Cato from the Pink Pather, someone just jumps out and speedbags your testicles.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That is fucking horrible. It's reprehensible that people who allow this kind of blatant violation of rights are allowed to keep their jobs, or that policies that pack more and more people into prisons with those depraved assholes are allowed to persist.

  • ||

    It's all part of the system, Hugh. Create a position like prison guard, and the worst possible people will immediately gravitate towards it, and will eventually comprise the entirety of its ranks. And will then protect the position from scrutiny and will endeavor to give it even more of the perverted powers that the people who inhabit it want.

  • tarran||

    Prison guards are one of the most loathsome groups of society. Only scum or villains are attracted to such a despicable profession.

  • R C Dean||

    They are LEOs, don't forget.

    Bottom of the barrell LEOs, but LEOs nonetheless.

  • Andrew S.||

    Yeah, but real bottom of the barrel. The kind that couldn't even qualify for work with the TSA or as a mall cop.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    The tough part about slagging prison guards is that someone has to do it, unless we're going to go back to exiles and executions as our primary modes of punishment.

  • Rasilio||

    Not necessarily true, eliminate the idea of prison as punishment and actually focus on prison as rehabilitation and you could get around this problem.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Uh no you still need to police the inmates, even if you're futilely trying to rehabilitate them.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I don't think that's true, Rasilio. The bottom line is that there is going to be a hardcore group that defies rehabilitation.

  • radar||

    Some people deserve punishment instead of rehabilitation. Now, that group is far smaller in number than who we currently incarcerate in this country, but there are still plenty of them.

  • Zeb||

    Sure, people deserve a lot of things. But if we are to have things like prisons, I think it wise to pursue what leads to the best outcomes for everyone and not on some vague notion of people getting what they deserve. I think lots of real criminals deserve a lot worse than they get, but I still don't want the state to have the power to give everyone the degree of punishment they deserve.

  • Loki||

    unless we're going to go back to exiles and executions as our primary modes of punishment.

    If we also get rid of all the bullshit victimless crimes like drugs, prostitution, etc., sure.

    Exile wouldn't really be that much worse than having a felony conviction on your record anyway. You lose most of the rights ordinary citizens enjoy, plus good luck getting a job with a felony conviction. So why not go ahead and set up a penal colony somewhere and wish them the best of luck?

  • ||

    Send them to Detroit

  • gaoxiaen||

    Right. "You want a job without a criminal record? Good luck with that!"

  • pmains||

    There are more options than exile, execution or prison. Polycentric customary law systems focus on compensation for victims rather than punishment of criminals. Dismantling the government monopoly on the courts would force an end to the drug war, among other things, and vastly reduce the number of prisoners.

  • Tonio||

    Mall cops, at least the private security guards I think of when I hear that term, are LEO's only in the most inclusive possible use of the term.

    Corrections officers are state employees who have full jurisdiction within their facilities, and LEO jurisdiction when transporting inmates outside their facilities.

  • Andrew S.||

    You know, in a past life (back when I was a neocon), I used to love shows like Cops, and documentaries that occurred inside a prison (I still watch the prison shows like Lockdown, but they just piss me off now). It's amazing the stuff they're willing to show the prison guards doing. Makes you wonder even more about what's going on behind the scenes.

  • Zeb||

    I used to like COPS too, but probably for a different reason. I was always amazed at how bad it made the police look and that they woudl willingly be shown on TV like that. But I guess other people watch that and think that they are doing a good job. Amazing.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I never watched it, but it seemed like the few moments of the show I did see were always in Florida.

  • Loki||

  • Cytotoxic||

    I have nothing against prison guards using force when necessary. What kind of bad stuff gets shown TV?

  • netterku||

  • Broseph of Invention||

    A nurse buddy from my Bible study just got a job at the local prison. He was told on his first day that they're first guards and second nurses. If he knew that going in he would have stayed cleaning up old person shit. But he's a good dude, and hopefully will have some positive effect. Or he'll quit.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    That's the way almost all Department of Corrections employees are trained. I have a close family member who operates the boiler outside of the gate. He'll never have any interactions with inmates unless the shit well and truly hits the fan, but he still had to undergo six weeks of guard training to start the position.

  • Tonio||

    Some people seek it out, or accept it as an alternative when they can't get actual po-po jobs. However, states love to build them some corrections facilities in impoverished rural areas where prison job is the best or only job you can get.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    So you have been to Illinois then, have you?

    Pontiac, Bug Muddy, Vienna, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

  • Tonio||

    Virginia. Red Onion State Prison. Etc.

  • Enough About Palin||

    "Prison guards are one of the most loathsome groups of society. Only scum or villains are attracted to such a despicable profession."

    In the interest of fairness, while hitchhiking, I was picked up by a prison guard in Ohio who was Native-American. He was a very decent man.

  • B.P.||

    That seems a bit ironic, considering all of the "correctional facility in area, do not pick up hitchhikers" signs I see on the highway.

  • Libertymike||

    as he was driving a car bought and paid for by means of coercion.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Prison rape really sickens me - like a criminal has to suffer all the more and be humiliated, or given a STD as part of "extra punishment". Add in the drug war and other victimless crimes, and you have a whole bunch of innocents being mistreated.

    Bah - I know I'm stating the obvious, but I have to say it to defuse the pain of the nut punch.

  • pmains||

    Defuse or diffuse?

  • Lord Humungus||

    both work for me...

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I would ask everyone remember this the next time some trog makes a prison rape joke.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Yeah, I hate that.

    In addition to the prisoner aspect, I think people don't care about prison rape because most victims are men.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    The sex of the victim is exactly why people don't care. It's sort of along the same lines as the Age of Consent debate. The most hawkish people about the Age of Consent only really get their dander up when it's a young *girl*. Young men are presumed horny and asking for it.

  • Rasilio||

    That used to be the case, the Jezebelians are rapidly changing it however

  • Tonio||

    Young men are presumably horny and asking for it when they're getting it from a woman; perhaps not so much when being anally raped by another man.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Rape is just not deemed as violative of a man as it is a woman. I think the gender is the key factor in that.

  • Libertymike||

    Bo Cara would agree, unless he wanted to debate.

  • Tonio||

    Really, NLK?

    What's the consensus on this guys?

  • Zeb||

    I think you are going to get a lot of variation of opinion on that. As far as personal perception goes, I'd bet that most men would see it as at least as violation as rape of a woman, at least if they were imagining it happening to themselves.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Because they've been dehumanized - as "POS" or "scumbags" etc., not human persons with dignity and rights.

    Matt 25:41-42

  • JD the elder||

    I think you might have meant the entirety of Matthew 25:41-46. It always blew my mind and saddened me that Christians in general don't make a bigger deal about prisoners, given that Jesus explicitly says, "HEY, THE WAY YOU TREAT PRISONERS IS THE WAY YOU TREAT ME, AND I'M NOT GOING TO FORGET IT." But I guess people being hypocrites is the way of the world...

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    The ONLY decent DOC folks I knew were waaaay more serious Christians than I.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Well, there's Charles Colson's prison ministry.

    http://www.prisonfellowship.org

    And the chaplains of various religious denominations.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Thanks for the passage. I read Colson's book Justice That Restores, which is fantastic.

    I think churches do a better job than most of society at helping former and current prisoners. My dad's an LCMS pastor, and was a police chaplain when I was younger. Besides getting called up for domestic disputes, he'd visit the county jail a few times a month. There are some older women at my church who provide free day care services to congregation members (and probably regular visitors) going through tough times, including a member who was released from prison a year ago.

    I think it was Bill Buckley who said the most interesting letters he receives are from prisoners and the least interesting are from people that stick "PhD" behind their salutation. I could see that.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -In addition to the prisoner aspect, I think people don't care about prison rape because most victims are men.

    Well, and from what I have read they are disproportionately white men, so bottom of the ladder on the approved victim's list.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I think it has less to do with the victims sex and more to do with the victims being dirty vile criminal scum. I imagine that most people would say that once a criminal is convicted they deserve anything they get and worse.

  • Doctor Whom||

    This. If you want to change anything, then, like OMG, why are you so soft on criminals?

  • B.P.||

    I'm not so sure. Women in prison seem to receive more sympathy. Part of that may be a perception that the only reason women end up in prison is because some of them are naive and foolishly trusted a male in their life.

  • JD the elder||

    A lot of this. There is a depressing amount of "well, they deserve everything they get" and "well, they shouldn't have done the crime, then".

  • gaoxiaen||

    A two-year marijuana sales conviction becomes a death sentence, but we're cool with that.

  • Marshall Gill||

    I would ask everyone remember this the next time some trog makes a prison rape joke.

    Why for Science sake? Jokes are just that, jokes. They are usually funny only when they have some hint of truth to them. Are there other areas which are also proscribed?

    What about the joke in the Sasha Cohen movie where his two friends think they are going to die and decide to have sex with each other. He saves them and catches them in the act and asks how it was and they reply "not bad". Later in the movie when they get arrested the friends are pleased by the idea of prison rape.

    While it certainly isn't the funniest thing I have ever seen, I don't see how it was out of bounds for humor. It isn't content which makes things out of bounds but intent.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Prisons are to government what concentrate is to juice. Take the authority and power of the government, concentrate it, put it no checks and balances or eyes on the situation, and you get horrors like this.

  • Loki||

    My biggest concern vis a vis prison rape is that with my luck I'll end up in a cell with Warty when the camps get up and going.

  • Loki||

    Not to make light of the issue or anything. It is a disgusting abuse of power by government employees, to say the least.

  • Tonio||

    You don't get a cell in prison camp, Loki, what do you think you are, a privileged common criminal? You get a bunk in a bunkhouse.

  • Sean Higgins||

    The articles notes that while their abuse in juvenile facilities, it typically does not involve physical coercion:

    "Of the youth who reported sexual activity with staff, 63 percent said that no physical force or other coercion had been involved. Indeed, many of them reported that they had initiated the sexual contact, and about half reported that the staff in question had given them pictures or written them letters. While this may not reflect our typical conception of violent sexual abuse, it should be emphasized that much of the staff sexual misconduct in juvenile detention is precisely that."

  • Sean Higgins||

    Err, "while there is abuse..."

  • Leigh||

    Whats really interesting is when you donate blood as I do, one of the standard questions is "Have you ever been in jail for 72 hours or longer". Answering in the affirmative will reject your donation. They know how bad they system, and yet taxpayers pay a fortune for our prison system. In this day and age, I can't believe that this still goes on. (Actually I can, as so much of government is run like FYTW.)

  • Tonio||

    Yep, they are super paranoid about the AIDS.

  • Warty||

    I know our nation has a lot of national disgraces, but this national disgrace is probably the most disgraceful of all of them. Or maybe it's the most national. I dunno.

  • Tonio||

    Other than you, of course. ;-)

  • Hugh Akston||

    Don't wink at Warty dude. It only provokes him.

  • creech||

    Paula Deen gets tossed off TV because she admitted to using the n-word in the past yet people laugh uproariously at "don't drop the soap" jokes about jail or at the ubiquitous scene of the tough cop telling the suspected perp about the joys that await a tender young man in prison.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    ^THIS, SO MUCH THIS

  • ||

  • Ted S.||

    I haven't heard it yet, Jesse, but I'm looking forward to listening to your interview with Radio New Zealand (~11MB, 33 min for everybody else).

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    This is purposely allowed to go on in order to keep us in line.

  • itupoker||

    given that 1 out of 3 black men go to prison, the jim crow and "indian removal" comparisons are eerily and oh-so-shamefully

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  • byutrta||

    Glad to see PREA data being parsed into meaningful trends. Not at all surprised to see that Corrections officers are responsible for the majority of rapes or that they could fix a huge portion of the minority they are not responsible for at any time.
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