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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: Daus
Nobody ends up in Federal prison for a 3rd time DUI.

Maybe he hit and killed someone while he was driving drunk. That might have been left out of the letter--especially if the victim was a woman or child--in order to create a more sympathetic portrayal of the offender.

121 posted on 02/12/2007 11:53:47 AM PST by American Quilter (You can't negotiate with people who are dedicated to your destruction.)
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To: Alouette

hey someday you could be thrown in the slammer for advocating spanking or refusing to give up you guns; either way whether it affects you personally or not ain't the issue its simply un-Christian to allow this sort of thing to prevail.

Speaking of which a fair amount of the folks Christ showed sympathy for were criminals.

122 posted on 02/12/2007 11:54:32 AM PST by kawaii (Orthodox Christianity -- Proclaiming the Truth Since 33 A.D.)
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To: Daus
Nobody ends up in Federal prison for a 3rd time DUI.

He didn't say he was in a federal prison.

123 posted on 02/12/2007 11:54:45 AM PST by ksen ("For an omniscient and omnipotent God, there are no Plan B's" - Frumanchu)
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To: B-Chan

Your post addresses a subject that needs to be addressed, unless we in America consider that homosexual rape is the appropriate punishment for almost any crime that gets you prison time. Or even the appropriate result of an accusation. In my view, if that is the punishment we will administer, it needs to be part of the code.

I think a lot of folks here ought to keep in mind the phrase, "There but for the grace of God go I."

124 posted on 02/12/2007 11:54:59 AM PST by Sam Cree (absolute reality)
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I'm shakin' it boss!

125 posted on 02/12/2007 11:55:06 AM PST by Tijeras_Slim
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To: paddles

Yep, bring back the chain gangs. ....or Sheriff Joe Arpaio-type prisons. No drugs, no rape, no nonsense. Hard labor all day and the Disney Channel for an hour or two before a much needed sleep.

126 posted on 02/12/2007 11:55:20 AM PST by Mr. Mojo
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To: isthisnickcool
1.3% of the US male population is in prison at this time. That makes it likely that close to 2% have been there. With 2 million plus inmates, if even only 1/10 of 1% of them are innocent that is 2,000 innocent prisoners.

Also, consider that the example in this case: the guy went to prison with a drinking problem. He will come out with AIDS, perhaps as a sexual predator. He may choose to take his frustrations on on children. He may become a rapist. Or maybe he will just become a street bum. One thing that is sure is that he is unlikely to reintigrate into society and have a nice family life.

So, we have turned him into a lifetime liability by our inability to control the gangs running our prisons. What will he cost the taxpayer by the time he's run out his life? Millions and millions.

127 posted on 02/12/2007 11:55:42 AM PST by Jack Black
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To: EndWelfareToday
Don't violate the law. Don't get thrown in prison.

And don't get a vindictive ex-wife who plays the "abuse" card.

128 posted on 02/12/2007 11:55:49 AM PST by Squawk 8888 (Is human activity causing the warming trend on Mars?)
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To: EndWelfareToday
Solution? Don't violate the law. Don't get thrown in prison.

Unfortunately, in the real world, it does not always work that way: Also, just think of prosectors such as Nifong.

Granted, it's probably not incredibly common, but it's not incredibly rare, either.

129 posted on 02/12/2007 11:55:50 AM PST by piytar
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To: zook

No, not the same thing. Beat the crap out of someone is administering justice. Turning your back on a crime against a convict is another.

I don't think the lack of professionalism is proper. Rather, I only offered an explanation for it.

130 posted on 02/12/2007 11:56:02 AM PST by misterrob (Jack Bauer/Chuck Norris 2008)
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To: B-Chan
The thought of homosexual rape in prison is more than enough of a reason for me to live a clean and honest life. But you're right that the innocent do go to prison and it is also possible for someone to do something stupid with a car or whatever and end up in jail.

I'm not sure why murder and rape are now considered lesser crimes than they were when I was a kid, but that's the world we live in. I believe that rapists and child molesters should have their genitalia removed. The punishment should fit the crime.

131 posted on 02/12/2007 11:56:31 AM PST by GBA (God Bless America!)
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To: B-Chan

Prison is not just for criminals. This is a real problem. I have a friend who did time and he said that in the Iowa prison he was in there was no rape or harassment at all.

132 posted on 02/12/2007 11:57:21 AM PST by DungeonMaster (Acts 17:11 also known as sola scriptura.)
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To: EndWelfareToday
Don't violate the law. Don't get thrown in prison.

That's about asinine. Ever break the speed limit by 1 mph? Do you have shoelaces and a gun? Do you have bleach and ammonia in the same house?

133 posted on 02/12/2007 11:57:26 AM PST by Centurion2000 (If you're not being shot at, it's not a high stress job.)
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To: Recovering Ex-hippie
2. this should not be happening in American prisons...and all of you Maroons who think its "not so bad" are justifying it!

You are right, this should not be happening in Amercian prisons and I never said it should be. The fact that it is means we are doing a bad job at watching the inmates.

One more time, the person I responded to posted something that if you read their words indicates it's very easy to be arrested and jailed in this country even if you are 100% innocent. I don't agree.

134 posted on 02/12/2007 11:57:29 AM PST by isthisnickcool (I own your children! ---RICK PERRY)
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To: John Williams
Make solitary confinement mandatory for the vast majority of prisoners.

8"x8" cells. No personal effects. Toilet and concrete cot, only.

Already been tried. The original "penitentiaries" were organizational incarnations of Quaker idealism. With their faith in "the inner light," and conviction that people with time to repent would do so, the Quakers devised secular monasteries. Hardened criminals would, if given enough time by themselves, see the error of their ways and come to repentance/reformation.

Didn't work that way. The innovators failed to allow for human depravity. What actually happened was, the "penitents" went insane. But, the buildings were already built, and personnel hired, so the failed experiment continued.

Biblical justice has no room for long-term incarceration. Execution, yes. Fines, yes. Penal servitude, yes. The goal of Biblical justice is not the reformation of the offender, but the restoration of the damaged social order, and the "making whole" of the victims.

135 posted on 02/12/2007 11:57:58 AM PST by TomSmedley (Calvinist, optimist, home schooling dad, exuberant husband, technical writer)
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To: B-Chan

So true.

136 posted on 02/12/2007 11:59:00 AM PST by lakeman (when a marine kills the only thing he feels is the recoil of his rifle)
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To: P-40

Meting out justice is the prerogative of society, through due process of law. It's not the purview of gangs in prison. Inmates being able to get away with this sort of thing indicates that they're the ones running the institutions, and that's completely unsatisfactory, whether you have sympathy for this particular individual or not.

137 posted on 02/12/2007 12:00:02 PM PST by kms61
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To: GulfBreeze

I read Liddy's Autobio.He seemed to handle the problem pretty well as I recall.Earned the inmate's respect,even the black ones you might have suspected would have had it out for him.

138 posted on 02/12/2007 12:00:36 PM PST by Riverman94610
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To: B-Chan
139 posted on 02/12/2007 12:00:38 PM PST by spunkets ("Freedom is about authority", Rudy Giuliani)
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To: mysterio

Bingo mysterio!
It is the lame-brain way to not have the discussion they know nothing about/are scared to confront.

140 posted on 02/12/2007 12:00:57 PM PST by JerseyDvl (STOP - Hildabeast, Shrillary, Hitlery, Billary, Her Thighness, Sen. Cankles, Dukakis-in-Drag)
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