Criminal Justice

Prison Rape: Still a Problem. Government: Still Not All That Concerned About It.

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In the New York Review of Books, David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow review several recent government studies on prison rape and conclude that there doesn't seem to be much interest even in discovering the true extent of the problem, much less doing anything about it.

[E]ven when authorities confirmed that corrections staff had sexually abused inmates in their care, only 42 percent of those officers had their cases referred to prosecution; only 23 percent were arrested, and only 3 percent charged, indicted, or convicted. Fifteen percent were actually allowed to keep their jobs.

How many people are really victimized every year? Recent BJS studies using a "snapshot" technique have found that, of those incarcerated on the days the surveys were administered, about 90,000 had been abused in the previous year, but as we have argued previously,2 those numbers were also misleadingly low. Finally, in January, the Justice Department published its first plausible estimates. In 2008, it now says, more than 216,600 people were sexually abused in prisons and jails and, in the case of at least 17,100 of them, in juvenile detention. Overall, that's almost six hundred people a day—twenty-five an hour.

Those figures also only count victims, not actual assaults. So if one person is repeatedly raped, it only counts once.

As part of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, Congress created a commission to study how to best address and prevent prison rape. In a wonderful display of a government commission acting with expediency to address an horrific and ongoing problem, that commission delivered its report . . . in June 2009. The law then required the Justice Department to issue recommendations based on the commission's report within 12 months. DOJ still hasn't delivered, and isn't expected to until the end of this year—at the earliest. In its preliminary responses, the DOJ has watered down most of the commission's recommendations. Even after all this is done, the recommendations are still just recommendations. There is unlikely to be any enforcement mechanism.

So as we approach eight years since Congress declared prison rape an urgent problem worthy of immediate government attention, we have a report from a committee, from which the Justice Department may—sometime in the next year—make some watered-down recommendations, all of which are unlikely come with any significant enforcement mechanism.

But don't mistake any of this to conclude that government isn't serious about prison rape. Really, they're quite serious. Just ask them.

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  1. Given the seemingly rising number of pols who will end up in prison one would think they would address this problem better…

    1. Maybe they like to receive the rape? They seem to enjoy doing it.

      1. Is it still OK if cops and politicians get raped?

        1. I can feel Obama’s male gaze on me…

          I can see Boner crying while getting raped by Bubba. Oh god, mental image.

          1. Only the opposition party politicians will go to prison.

    2. RADLEY BALKO FEB 11TH 2011:

      There’s so much real investigative journalism conservatives could be doing on government waste, incompetence, accountability, and transparency. It’s pathetic that donors on the right keep handing over money for these moronic “stings”. The right needs 10 more Tim Carneys. Instead, they keep churning out James O’Keefes.

      1. You’re a phoney Balko. Meanwhile some 26 year old kid, that looks like he’s 18 brings down one of the biggest piles of shit the government has ever churned out. You know the difference between guys like O’Keefe/Breitbart, and Reason? Testicles! and willing to be called names by Washington shitheads. Reason has gone soft on the NPR scandal because many writers here hope to end up there. NPR and Reason are 2 peas in the same pod.

        1. You know the difference between guys like O’Keefe/Breitbart, and Reason?

          Cleverly edited video tape?

        2. I like the cut of your jib, now got hang yourself from the mast.

  2. Paging Mr. Smith, Mr. Steve Smith, please pick up at the white courtesy rape phone.

    1. HELLO! OPERATOR? STEVE SMITH LIKE MAKE COLLECT RAPE CALL TO MR. HMM. NO, STEVE SMITH NOT KNOW FIRST NAME! CALL ALL HMM’S! STEVE SMITH WANT RAPE ALL ONOMATOPOEIA!

      1. That’s funny every time!

        1. STEVE SMITH CAN SMELL RATHER CUNT! FAKE NAME NO HIDE THAT STENCH!

  3. If they’re in prison, they had it coming. Sodomy is a great rehabilitative tool.

    1. THIS TRUE! STEVE SMITH REHABILITATE HIKERS FROM EVER GOING IN WOODS AGAIN!

  4. “But don’t mistake any of this to conclude that government isn’t serious about prison rape. Really, they’re quite serious. Just ask them.”

    They should put their money where their mouth…wait, probably not the best line for this thread…

  5. This provides for us a true area of bipartisanship for Republicans and Democrats, in that prison remains the only politically-correct context for both gay and rape jokes.

    1. Is there any joke older or less funny than the prison rape joke?

      Can’t think of any.

      1. “Two wolves vote on which sheep to eat” maybe?

  6. Seriously I’ve always questioned how law and order types can be unconcerned about this. If prisons are supposed to represent the final victory of law and order over lawlessness, then allowing mass lawless victimization within the prisons utterly defeats that. Certainly they realize the meanest thugs are the ones doing the victimizing? WTF?

    And on the other hands liberals should realize that true, honest law and order within the prisons would be beneficial to many prisoners, especially the more likely to be victimized.

    1. In my estimation, most law and order types are more motivated by revenge and reverence for authority figures

      1. is that some public officials believe that the extra-judicial punishment of jailhouse rape is appropriate for a lot of crimes.

    2. Because just like the amorphous “rich people” construction and the left, criminals are just a demonized other for law and order types to feel superior to. And “law and order” is a self-serving construction as well. They don’t care about the law, that’s why they dismiss protections for the accused as “technicalities.” It’s about order as they perceive it, and order always shuffles them to the top.

    3. “If prisons are supposed to represent the final victory of law and order over lawlessness, then allowing mass lawless victimization within the prisons utterly defeats that”

      I’m not convinced that, in their heart of hearts, most law and order types really think of people in prison as human.

      And if you don’t think of people in prison as human, I guess excepting them from the protection of the law they supposedly violated makes a kind of perverse sense.

      1. Yeah, but wouldn’t they want to stick it to (no pun intended) the worst of the worst by preventing them from getting their jollies by raping the weaker prisoners?

        1. I don’t think they really differentiate between “worst of the worst” and other prisoners.

          If you’re in prison, you’re bad. Period. I’m sure they’d like to prevent said WotW from having fun, but not at the expense of helping other prisoners who they view as equally bad.

          And there’s kind of an inertia thing here. Avoiding looking like you care for [insert bad group] always seems to trump actually preventing crime.

    4. Law and order types are all about “authority” and power.

      Rape is about power.

      You do the math.

  7. As part of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, Congress created a commission to study how to best address and prevent prison rape.

    I assume STEVE SMITH was called to testify before this commission.

    So as we approach eight years since Congress declared prison rape an urgent problem worthy of immediate government attention, we have a report from a committee, from which the Justice Department may?sometime in the next year?make some watered-down recommendations, all of which are unlikely come with any significant enforcement mechanism.

    IOW, this translates to “We don’t give a shit! Buncha low life consensual criminal riff raff, the lot of them! Hell, they probably even deserve it!” No doubt, this stuff is covered up by the Correctional Officers Union. Disgusting.

    1. STEVE SMITH PLEAD THE 5TH ON ADVICE OF LAWYER!

      STEVE SMITH ONCE RAPE LAWYER UNTIL LAWYER TURN INSIDE OUT! STEVE SMITH LAUGHED AT HIS OBJECTIONS! HA, HA! STEVE SMITH MAKE LAWYER JOKE!

      LAUGH AT STEVE SMITH LAWYER JOKE! LAUGH! GRR!

  8. Due to politically correct dumbassery (male guards / female prisoners), bureaucratic incompetence and Michigan’s citizens not giving a fuck about what happens to people after we lock them up, the state taxpayers are forking out $100 million to rape victims and their lawyers.

    The problem won’t be fixed.

    1. Shouldn’t it be the actual rapists forking out the money? There’s no qualified immunity here.

      Sure, they don’t have the $100 million, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a bunch of guards dragged kicking and screaming out of their houses in front of their sobbing children, as the houses go on the auction block.

      1. they probably won’t even lose their jobs. It’s the New Era of Public-Employee Unions.

  9. Rape is an integral part of the prison experience. It is part of the punishment. Don’t like it, then stay off drugs and out of prisons.

    1. STEVE SMITH HOPE JANE GO PRISON! AND SMELL BETTER THAN RATHER! EVEN STEVE SMITH HAVE SOME STANDARDS!

    2. Your trolling would have been better without the last sentence. It gave it away.

    3. Sort of like it’s an integral part of the female experience, Jane?

      You’re a real dick for female.

      1. Jane is the English version of “Juanita”.

  10. Well, as long as it’s “prison rape”, and not “rape rape”. If it were “rape rape”, that’d be different.

    But it’s “prison rape” – so no harm, no foul. Play on.

    1. STEVE SMITH SUPPORT RAPE-RAPE-RAPE! STEVE SMITH GO FURTHER! IT ALL RAPED TURTLES ALL WAY DOWN!

  11. dunphy, where are you on the involuntary-ass-fucking-in-prison question? How about cops who go to prison?

    Oh, wait – cops don’t go to prison – never mind. “Not experts”, “isolated incident”, “more training” = off the hook. I forgot for a minute…

  12. Seriously I’ve always questioned how law and order types can be unconcerned about this.

    You’re lying, but hey.

    What those who support law (itself) and order (as law-generated phenomenon)?whether they’re “law and order types” or the type who call other people “law and order types”?actually effectively support is the infliction of terror, torture, and miscellaneous Kafkan shit on anyone who’s weaker than whoever lawfully (or extralegally) inflicts it.

    Prison rape is a very pure and striking example of it. So people like it. They’re not “unconcerned” about this. They’re FUCK YEAH about this.

    You’re FUCK YEAH about this.

    B) Prison Rape Elimination Act

    I got suspicious when I saw that, because all laws have acronymic names now, and this one mysteriously doesn’t. So I stared at it real hard.

    It says “rape” twice.

    1. It’s already been established that the government likes rape.

    2. Prison Rape Elimination Act……

      Rape Act Prison Elimination….

      yeah, they really passed on a choice acronym there. Nice that they were still able to use the same letters though.

      *facepalm to infinty and beyond*

      1. They didn’t pass on a choice acronym, the purposefully didn’t use one so that most folk can’t remember that they actually addressed prison rape in any way.

  13. Eh I’ve tried not to overthink this one. As one previous poster said, most people think rape should be part of the prison experience.

    They’re probably not keen on the idea of scary-looking criminals sitting around all day while receiving taxpayer funded meals, health, dental, cable, and while they have to labor away at their jobs to acquire the same.

    It’s not enough to them that the person can’t go anywhere, prison has to be a torturous place where nobody would want to return. Chain gangs out in the hot desert sun are also pretty popular amongst the populace.

  14. If there weren’t prison rape then cops would lose one tool to convince accomplices to rat out the real perp.
    It’s practically a staple of L&O and those kind of tv shows to show the LEO scaring the shit out of some delicate 18 yr. old with lines like “don’t drop the soap” and “your cell mate will really love meeting you.”

  15. STEVE SMITH NOT SAME SINCE CATCH EAST COAST RAPIST! STEVE SMITH SAD! STEVE SMITH VALUE BI-COASTAL RAPE SYMMETRY! MOVE TO PRISON TO MAKE UP!

  16. Instead of focusing on this, the media is whining about some chick claiming rape by the American Apparel owner again. If you want a rich man’s money, get some fucking principles and become a whore.

  17. Jeez, first it’s all “cut spending” and now it’s all “do something about prison rape.” Duh, we can’t address the problem without spending money. You’d think a site called Reason would be consistent.

  18. The extend of prison rape in America is a disgrace to the nation.

  19. Want to stop this? Simple answer: rape someone in prison and get a) chemically castrated, and b) an extra ten years on the sentence. If the rapist is a lifer, the extra ten are spent in solitary confinement. I’d actually like to see the rapists shot but the damned fools who keep fighting the death penalty would make that option too expensive.

  20. [E]ven when authorities confirmed that corrections staff had sexually abused inmates in their care, only 42 percent of those officers had their cases referred to prosecution; only 23 percent were arrested, and only 3 percent charged, indicted, or convicted. Fifteen percent were actually allowed to keep their jobs.

    Did I read that right? This isn’t about prisoners raping other prisoners? It’s about the guards raping prisoners?

    1. Partly, yes. And officers taking bribes to give prisoners access to the most vulnerable inmates.

      Intersexed and Trans people have a 60% chance of being raped, vs 5% for the general population.

      They don’t even have to go to trial – many are raped while on remand, and bail is refused. Quite a few plead guilty to crimes they couldn’t possibly have committed, or where the conduct isn’t actually illegal, just to get released with “time served”.

      This isn’t exactly secret – it’s in the public record, discussed by law professors, in stipulated evidence in court transcripts etc.

  21. Maybe if a few politicians are raped by disgruntled ex-cons, we will see a little action non this matter.

    It’s always easier to understand the gravity of a problem if you have experienced it, yourself.

  22. As a rape victim whose rapist is currently in prison, I don’t mind one bit if there is some retribution in prison. I looked at these stats, compared them to the overall prison population in America, and sighed a little when I realized the chances aren’t high enough for my taste (especially when you factor in protective custody). Most of society really does like the idea of putting all the bad guys together and letting whatever happens “happen”. The only people really concerned with this issue are former prisoners, family of prisoners, and hard-core lefties.
    I do not support allowing guards to rape. They are supposed to be the good guys, and they are truly in a position of authority. That is wrong. I do support adding time onto the sentence of anyone caught raping another prisoner…they all get out earlier than their stated sentences anyway for “good behavior.” How is that good behavior?
    Does my comment mean that STEVE SMITH wants to rape me now, too? Watch out, I carry concealed now!

    1. “As a rape victim whose rapist is currently in prison, I don’t mind one bit if there is some retribution in prison.”
      Great so you’re happy that your rapist is continuing his crimes against those weaker than him, probably those are less violent, or even totally non-violent.

      ” Most of society really does like the idea of putting all the bad guys together and letting whatever happens “happen”. ”
      Then most of society hasn’t thought about what happens when they get out, traumatized and possibly HIV positive.

      “The only people really concerned with this issue are former prisoners, family of prisoners, and hard-core lefties.”
      Yeah that’s Reason all right, they start each day with a brisk chorus of “The Red Flag”.

    2. “As a rape victim whose rapist is currently in prison, I don’t mind one bit if there is some retribution in prison.”
      Great so you’re happy that your rapist is continuing his crimes against those weaker than him, probably those are less violent, or even totally non-violent.

      ” Most of society really does like the idea of putting all the bad guys together and letting whatever happens “happen”. ”
      Then most of society hasn’t thought about what happens when they get out, traumatized and possibly HIV positive.

      “The only people really concerned with this issue are former prisoners, family of prisoners, and hard-core lefties.”
      Yeah that’s Reason all right, they start each day with a brisk chorus of “The Red Flag”.

  23. Government isn’t concerned because men are the victims. 216,000 men raped: who cares. One woman raped: a national crisis.

  24. CJ is revolting, his/her experience of sexual assault notwithstanding. As a rape victim whose rapist is currently not in prison (drew a suspended sentence on the ground of terminal illness; still alive and well seven years later), the prospect of anybody else suffering the same thing, in prison or not, appals and disgusts me. Those who apologise for it, even more so.

    Get a conscience, CJ.

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