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No Escape: Male Rape In U.S. Prisons
Human Rights Watch ^ | 2007.02.12 | Joanne Mariner

Posted on 02/12/2007 11:22:29 AM PST by B-Chan

"I've been sentenced for a D.U.I. offense. My 3rd one. When I first came to prison, I had no idea what to expect. Certainly none of this. I'm a tall white male, who unfortunately has a small amount of feminine characteristics. And very shy. These characteristics have got me raped so many times I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to 5 black men and two white men at a time. I've had knifes at my head and throat. I had fought and been beat so hard that I didn't ever think I'd see straight again. One time when I refused to enter a cell, I was brutally attacked by staff and taken to segragation though I had only wanted to prevent the same and worse by not locking up with my cell mate. There is no supervision after lockdown. I was given a conduct report. I explained to the hearing officer what the issue was. He told me that off the record, He suggests I find a man I would/could willingly have sex with to prevent these things from happening. I've requested protective custody only to be denied. It is not available here. He also said there was no where to run to, and it would be best for me to accept things . . . . I probably have AIDS now. I have great difficulty raising food to my mouth from shaking after nightmares or thinking to hard on all this . . . . I've laid down without physical fight to be sodomized. To prevent so much damage in struggles, ripping and tearing. Though in not fighting, it caused my heart and spirit to be raped as well. Something I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for."


The letter excerpted above was one of the first to reach Human Rights Watch in response to a small announcement posted in Prison Legal News and Prison Life Magazine, two publications with a wide audience in U.S. prisons. Having been alerted to the problem of prisoner-on-prisoner rape in the United States by the work of activists like Stephen Donaldson of the organization Stop Prisoner Rape, we had decided to conduct exploratory research into the topic and had put a call out to prisoners for information. The resulting deluge of letters--many of which included compelling firsthand descriptions such as this--convinced us that the issue merited urgent attention. Rape, by prisoners' accounts, was no aberrational occurrence; instead it was a deeply-rooted, systemic problem. It was also a problem that prison authorities were doing little to address.

The present report--the product of three years of research and well over a thousand inmate letters--describes the complex dynamics of male prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse in the United States. The report is an effort to explain why and how such abuse occurs, who commits it and who falls victim to it, what are its effects, both physical and psychological, how are prison authorities coping with it and, most importantly, what reforms can be instituted to better prevent it from occurring.


The Scope of this Report

This report is limited in scope to male prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse in the United States. It does not cover women prisoners, nor does it cover the sexual abuse of male prisoners by their jailers. Human Rights Watch investigated the problem of custodial sexual misconduct in U.S. women's prisons in two previous reports and the issue has been a continuing focus of our U.S. advocacy efforts. As to custodial sexual misconduct against male prisoners, we decided not to include that topic within the scope of this report even though some prisoners who claimed to have been subject to such abuse did contact us. An initial review of the topic convinced us that it involved myriad issues that were distinct from the topic at hand, which is complicated enough in itself.

Even though the notices that Human Rights Watch circulated to announce our research on prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse were written in gender-neutral language, we received no information from women prisoners regarding the problem. As prison experts are well aware, penal facilities for men and women tend to differ in important respects. If the problem of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse exists in women's institutions--a possibility we do not exclude--it is likely to take somewhat different forms than in men's prisons.

For several reasons, the primary focus of this report is on sexual abuse in prisons, rather than jails. Most importantly, all of our information save a handful of letters came from prison as opposed to jail inmates. Many of these prisoners did, however, describe sexual abuses they had suffered when previously held in jails, allowing us to gather some information on the topic. Nonetheless, the bulk of our prisoner testimonies and documentation--and all of the information we collected from state authorities--pertain specifically to prisons. Already, with fifty separate state prison jurisdictions in the United States, the task of collecting official information was difficult; obtaining such information from the many thousands of local authorities responsible for city and county jails would have been infinitely more so. Yet we should emphasize that our lack of specific research on jails should be not interpreted as suggesting that the problem does not occur there. Although little research has been done on sexual assault in jails, the few commentators who have examined the topic have found the abuse to be similarly or even more prevalent there.

It is evident to Human Rights Watch, even without having completed exhaustive research into the jail context, that the problems we describe with regard to prisons generally hold true for jails as well. This conclusion derives from the fact that most of the risk factors leading to rape exist in prisons and jails alike. We therefore believe that our recommendations for reform are largely applicable in the jail context, and we urge jail authorities to pay increased attention to the issue of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse.

While this report does not deal specifically with juvenile institutions, we note that previous research, while extremely scanty, suggests that inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse may be even more common in juvenile institutions than it is in facilities for adults. Indeed, a case filed recently by the U.S. Justice Department in federal court to challenge conditions in a Louisiana juvenile institution includes serious allegations of inmate-on-inmate rape.

Finally, our choice of U.S. prisons as the subject of this research, over prisons elsewhere in the world, in no way indicates that we believe the problem to be unique to the United States. On the contrary, our international prison research convinces us that prisoner-on-prisoner rape is of serious concern around the world. We note that several publications on human rights or prison conditions in other countries have touched on or explored the topic, as have past Human Rights Watch prison reports.(8) Interestingly, researchers outside of the United States have reached many of the same conclusions as researchers here, suggesting that specific cultural variables are not determinative with regard to rape in prison.(9)



The report is primarily based on information collected from over 200 prisoners spread among thirty-seven states. The majority of these inmates have been raped or otherwise sexually abused while in prison, and were therefore able to give firsthand accounts of the problem. Numerous inmates who were not subject to sexual abuse also provided their views on the topic, including information about sexual assaults that they had witnessed. A very small number of inmates who had themselves participated in rape also contributed their perspectives. Much of the information was received via written correspondence, although Human Rights Watch representatives spoke by telephone with a number of prisoners, and personally interviewed twenty-six of them. Prisoner testimonies were supplemented by documentary materials such as written grievances, court papers, letters, and medical records.

Prisoners were contacted using several different methods. Human Rights Watch posted announcements in a number of publications and leaflets that reach prisoners--including Prison Legal News, Prison Life Magazine (which has since ceased publication), and Florida Prison Legal Perspectives--informing them that we were conducting research on the topic of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse and that we welcomed their information. Several organizations that work with prisoners, including Stop Prisoner Rape, put us in contact with additional inmates.

The prisoners who collaborated in our efforts were thus a largely self-selected group, not a random sampling. Previous researchers have conducted quantitative studies using statistically valid techniques in certain U.S. prisons -- most recently, in 1998 in seven midwestern state prison systems -- but, given that there are some two million prisoners in the United States, this would be difficult to achieve on a national scale. The research on which the present report was based was thus qualitative in nature: it sought to identify systemic weaknesses rather than to quantify actual cases of abuse. The result, we believe, sketches the outlines of a national problem, bridging the gap between academic research on the topic and the more anecdotal writings that occasionally appear in the popular press.

The prisoners with whom Human Rights Watch was in contact, we should emphasize, did not simply serve as a source of case material. Rather, their comments and insights--based on firsthand knowledge and close observation--inform every page of the report.

Besides prisoners, we also obtained valuable information from prison officials, prison experts, lawyers who represent prisoners, prisoners rights organizations, and prisoners' relatives. Written materials including academic studies, books, and articles from the popular press supplemented these sources. In addition, Human Rights Watch conducted an extensive review of the case law relevant to prison rape in the United States.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: absolutes; crime; freepugnant; prisonjustice; race; rape; sexualassault; society; vigilantism; violence
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To: AppyPappy
I have spoken to several men who have been in prison and they say the rape concept is way overblown. Most cellmates are reluctant to rape their cellie for fear they might kill them in their sleep. Besides cells, men are rarely unsupervised long enough to rape anyone.

Or long enough to beat up a former Border Patrol agent, right?

While there is some truth in what you wrote, there are far too many poorly run prisons where officials do look the other way and/or are understaffed. There is no excuse for bribery and prisoners getting a hold of contraband, but it still happens a lot.

These days our prison system as a whole is probably America's greatest shame. Lots of reasons, from both the left and right, that led up to where we are, but it is inexcusable and we need reforms.

101 posted on 02/12/2007 11:49:26 AM PST by Diddle E. Squat (Rudy Giuliani-Joe Dyton in '08; and free the Texas Three.)
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LOL, don't you mean "work detail"?

102 posted on 02/12/2007 11:49:30 AM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.)
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To: MovementConservative

In reality it would not take much to target someone then gang rape them. Three guys with a heavy object could knock someone silly then do their business on him. A blanket could be used to restrain someone just as easily as a few t-shirts and a shank. All that has to happen is someone get caught looking the other way and they are done.

Now, if you are a loner then you are toast. Having a prison bud or two around you at all times will pretty much keep the risks to a minimum.

103 posted on 02/12/2007 11:49:59 AM PST by misterrob (Jack Bauer/Chuck Norris 2008)
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To: B-Chan
If only we all could be as tough as you, P-40.

It is not a question of being tough. I see no reason to give a damn about a three time DUI offender. True, the state should be protecting him but in this individual's case I can think of better things to spend my time caring about.
104 posted on 02/12/2007 11:50:13 AM PST by P-40 (Al Qaeda was working in Iraq. They were just undocumented.)
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To: norge

Could the lesson here be... Driving while drunk causes aids? Therefore... do not drive drunk?? Hark! Hark! Another no brainer.

105 posted on 02/12/2007 11:50:15 AM PST by Bubba (Kill'um there or kill'um here.. bloody no brainer!)
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To: isthisnickcool

Let's just say my faith in the fairness of the judicial system has waned somewhat in light of Janet Reno's jailing of the family in the child abuse cases in Florida, the Duke rape case debacle, Rush's brush with a grandstanding DA, Libby's show trial etc etc.

106 posted on 02/12/2007 11:50:21 AM PST by saganite (Billions and billions and billions-------and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: Constitutional Patriot
Prisoners who rape should be castrated, as should corrections personnel who actively or passively condone rape.

I don't know about castration but the people who are paid to run these prisons have gotten a pass for too long

Wardens and guards upon whose watch this occurs skate with total impunity

Until they are held accountable this will only get worse


107 posted on 02/12/2007 11:50:34 AM PST by Elle Bee
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To: B-Chan

Bullies in public schools serve the same purpose as rapists in prisons -- keeping the victims aware of their helplessness.

108 posted on 02/12/2007 11:50:53 AM PST by TomSmedley (Calvinist, optimist, home schooling dad, exuberant husband, technical writer)
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To: isthisnickcool; B-Chan

You need to do your homework, Mr. Cool.

My family has a friend who was wrongly accused of rape by his very messed-up daughter. This man was entirely innocent, a good church-going fellow who loved his family and had never been in trouble with the law. His teenage daughter went off to college in another state and was basically brainwashed. She concocted lie upon lie about what her father "did" to her when she was living with him.

Her word was enough to get this man arrested and thrown into a big city jail, where he remained for weeks while his lawyer and family tried to get him out. Eventually, his daughter recanted everything and admitted she made it up. In the process? This man's life was destroyed, his career ruined -- and who knows what unspeakable horrors he faced while behind bars.

So I think YOUR ignorance is what's dumb.

109 posted on 02/12/2007 11:50:55 AM PST by Gunder
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To: CharlesWayneCT

What? you make no sense whatsoever!

110 posted on 02/12/2007 11:51:00 AM PST by Recovering Ex-hippie (Oprah is a phony money grubbing self centered sleeze ..Now we see how you made your 1.5 Billion!!)
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To: yoe

Yeah, kind of hard to be sexually dominant and aggressive wearing pink...

111 posted on 02/12/2007 11:51:13 AM PST by misterrob (Jack Bauer/Chuck Norris 2008)
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To: misterrob

Having a Stick man helps

112 posted on 02/12/2007 11:51:24 AM PST by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: paddles

Lack of sympathy is one of the signs of a sociopath. You may want to have that checked into.

As for hard labor -- I would tend to agree with you. I'd rather chop cotton on a chain gang than take it up the pooper in an air conditioned cell any day.

113 posted on 02/12/2007 11:51:31 AM PST by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: ArrogantBustard

Well said.

114 posted on 02/12/2007 11:51:51 AM PST by vietvet67
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To: B-Chan
Next time, it might be you.

Why would you think it might be me? I don't drink and drive, I don't consume illegal substances, I don't shoplift, I don't drive without proof of insurance, I have a valid disabled parking tag, and I don't mouth off to law enforcement.

115 posted on 02/12/2007 11:52:01 AM PST by Alouette (Learned Mother of Zion)
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To: B-Chan

You have a good point, my uncle is a retired CO and I have few other relatives that still work in the prison system. But don't think for one second being black means you will not get raped. He always talked about how the men that were considered by black women to be very good looking were frequent targets. Women prisons are getting very bad also, because I have heard horror stories on how some women inmates have raped other inmates by putting objects in them.

A few years back my uncle was talking about a man who was freed after serving 13 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit (DNA evidence proved his innocence) the sad part about it is he was raped in prison and contracted HIV. Just to see all those people that have been exonerated through DNA evidence is downright scary. It is a shame that so many innocent people have spent time in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

116 posted on 02/12/2007 11:52:58 AM PST by YoungSoutherner
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To: isthisnickcool

You miss the whole point.
1. Yes, if you are the 1 % that is innocent and beaten or what about statistics?
2. this should not be happening in American prisons...and all of you Maroons who think its "not so bad" are justifying it!

117 posted on 02/12/2007 11:52:59 AM PST by Recovering Ex-hippie (Oprah is a phony money grubbing self centered sleeze ..Now we see how you made your 1.5 Billion!!)
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To: Diddle E. Squat
Then you must not read your own posts. Ever heard of the Texas Three?

3 out of how many? My issue is that it't not correct to say "that it is very easy to end up in slam in the United States, even if you're 100% innocent". To me the words mean that it's very easy to land in jail in this country for doing nothing. I don't agree with that and neither do the statistics. If the poster meant something different they have had the opportunity to clarify what they meant.

118 posted on 02/12/2007 11:53:28 AM PST by isthisnickcool (I own your children! ---RICK PERRY)
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To: Alouette

"It can't happen to me" is one of the most foolish things a person can say.

119 posted on 02/12/2007 11:53:28 AM PST by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: AnotherUnixGeek
Prisons are intended to safeguard society from convicted criminals

Lemme fix that for you...

Prisons are intended to safeguard society from PUNISH convicted criminals.
120 posted on 02/12/2007 11:53:47 AM PST by HOTTIEBOY (Campers laugh at clowns behind closed doors.)
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