Skip to comments.Rape Factories - Why is the government doing so little to end sexual assault in prisons?
Posted on 06/20/2011 5:05:27 PM PDT by TheDingoAteMyBaby
In 1984 the photographer Tom Cahill smashed a plate-glass door in a fit of fury at the San Francisco Chronicle. He had just unsuccessfully attempted to get the papers reporters to write about rape in Americas jails and prisons. Cahill was a desperate man at the time, tormented by flashbacks and nightmares, his personal and professional life in ruins.
Cahills story began in 1968, when he was arrested in Texas during a peaceful antiwar protest. An Air Force vet who opposed the Vietnam War, he did not prove popular among jail staff in the heavily military town of San Antonio. Before placing him in an overcrowded communal cell, he says, the guards spread word that he was a child molester. Cahill remembers with a shudder how one of the staff members shouted fresh meat before leaving. After 24 hours of beatings and gang rape, his life was shattered.
More than four decades later, sexual violence behind bars is still widespread in the United States. But thanks to Cahill and other courageous survivors, the ongoing crisis is no longer shrouded in silence.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently released its first-ever estimate of the number of inmates who are sexually abused in America each year. According to the departments data, which are based on nationwide surveys of prison and jail inmates as well as young people in juvenile detention centers, at least 216,600 inmates were victimized in 2008 alone. Contrary to popular belief, most of the perpetrators were not other prisoners but staff memberscorrections officials whose job it is to keep inmates safe. On average, each victim was abused between three and five times over the course of the year. The vast majority were too fearful of reprisals to seek help or file a formal complaint.
Sexual violence is not an inevitable part of prison life. On the contrary, it is highly preventable. Corrections officials who are committed to running safe facilities train their staff thoroughly. They make sure that inmates who are especially vulnerable to abusesuch as small, mentally ill, and gay or transgender detaineesare not housed with likely perpetrators. And they hold those who commit sexual assaults accountable, even if they are colleagues.
But many corrections administrators are reluctant to make sexual abuse prevention a top priority, preferring to maintain the status quo rather than acknowledge the role their own employees play. Others are actually fighting reform efforts, claiming, in spite of the evidence, that sexual violence is rare.
This resistance is reflected in the slow implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which Congress unanimously passed in 2003. The law mandated binding national standards to help end sexual abuse in detention. But almost eight years later, the Justice Department has yet to promulgate final standards.
Attorney General Eric Holder has not shown leadership on this issue. In 2009 Holder essentially rejected standards recommended by a bipartisan commission that spent years studying the problem of prisoner rape, claiming that the recommendationswhich included limits on cross-gender supervision and the loosening of deadlines for survivors to file formal grievanceswould have been too expensive.
Its easy to feel numbed by the Justice Departments estimate that almost 600 prisoners are sexually victimized each day. But behind that number are real people like Jan Lastocy. While serving time for attempted embezzlement in a Michigan prison in 1998, Lastocy was raped. Not once, not twice, but several times a week for seven months. The rapist was an officer who supervised her at a prison warehouse. Lastocy was so afraid of him that she did not even dare to tell her husband of 30 years, John, what was going on. Later John said, Jan did a stupid thing, and she went to prison for it. But no one should have to pay the price that she did.
Jan and John Lastocys lives were devastated by prisoner rape. Holder should listen to and learn from them rather than bowing to corrections officials trying to maintain the status quo.
Lovisa Stannow (firstname.lastname@example.org) is executive director of Just Detention International.
Abu Ghraib is nothing compared to what happens in uber blue state prisons.
Let’s see....prisoners aren’t voters so who cares?
Prison rape is a horrible problem that needs to be addressed but it is the tip of the iceberg. Correctional facility staff are some of the most corrupt, unprofessional people on the face of the earth. Bringing drugs in, playing favorites among prisoners, holding grudges and taking it out on prisoners. Its a mess. And the administrators rely on the fact that the public thinks that prisoners deserve bad conditions to resist change. This is one rare area where government definitely needs to “do something.”
You think that prison rape only happens in blue states?
American prisons have the highest concentration of likely democrat voters in the US. It’s not surprising violence and criminal behavior go on in liberal bastions.
Nor did I say that.
I have worked with men who have been arrested for misdemenors like possesion or public drunkeness and who have been repeatedly raped in jail. Horrific. Our jails have turned into torture chambers.
Mind you, I have no problem with capital punishment, I have no problem with imprisoning the guilty, I do have a problem with using prisoners to torture other prisoners or to have prisoners do the work the state needs to do, such as execution. When prisoners kill a person like a mass murderer, that is in my opinion, a failure of our justice system.
Few advocate for the imprisoned. But in this increasingly totalitarian society we are all closer to imprisonment than we can imagine
Will this be on the Front page of the NY Times a few dozen times?
Will pigs ever fly?
By definition prisoners are intended to be treated poorly.
Sorry I can’t get excited about what happens to people who choose to be outlaws. Perhaps, if they’d made a better choice they wouldn’t have placed themselves in that kind of jeapardy.
In any case it is impossible to fix all imagined and real problems in this country all at once. Therefore, priortization is requited. My priority is the millions of unborn human babies who’re killed annually by doctors and staff who get rich enjoying what they’re doing.
Lets see....prisoners arent voters so who cares?
Blue state prisoners vote.
By definition prisoners are intended to be treated poorly.
Sorry I cant get excited about what happens to people who choose to be outlaws. Perhaps, if theyd made a better choice they wouldnt have placed themselves in that kind of jeapardy.
In an increasingly totalitarian world this could happen to you and yours. Life threatening jepordy is not ok for minimal offenses. Screw it, life threatening jepordy is not ok for anyone, if you support torture, your moral meter is stuck on stupid.
Conservatives built our police state. It is up to us to dismantle the police state. But I doubt we can. Many many Freepers argue for extra judicial punishment on “Ferrell humans” through cop beat-downs. So again conservatives have been a big part of this through an urge to preserve institutions and provide “Law and Order”..
So you think it is OK for young men to be raped repeatedly when their crimes are for much lesser offenses?
Must be nice up in that ivory tower.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness.
Liberty is dead and despised. Justice for you and mercy for me.
Indifferent to homosexual rape, got you.