Skip to comments.No Escape: Male Rape In U.S. Prisons
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.
Food for thought.
HRW is wrong about a lot of things, but this isn't one of them. The gist of the report is that racist revenge rape is universal in local and federal detentional facilities. Multiculturalism does not exist Inside; there it's survival of the fittest, and unless you are physically strong and/or backed by a racial gang of your own race, you are fair game. If you are white, you will almost certainly be targeted.
I notice a considerable amount of gloating on FR when a story about inmate rape is posted. Those tempted to gloat would be well advised to remember that it is very easy to end up in slam in the United States, even if you're 100% innocent. The next time it could be you that is on the wrong side of those bars.
Hmmmmm, I sure hope they find Mike Nifong guilty.
The part in bold may be one of the dumber things I've ever seen posted here.
He was sentenced for a DUI. That generally means minimum security. The poor guy would still be crying if they locked him up here in BCDC.
Personally, I'd consider quitting the booze.
You must live in a different United States than the one I live in.
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. Where are you going to go where no one can hear you scream in a prison?
On the other hand consider the justifiable outrage here at the 2 border patrol agents currently locked up.
The last time I checked rape wasn't a Constitutional form of punishment.
Don't violate the law. Don't get thrown in prison.
how do they know the prisoners are telling the truth? I mean anybody can say that things hapenned to them, especially if they think that it would help them to get out eralier, or perhaps collect from the gov.
what other supporting evidence do they have?
I'd sure hate to see all this hassle over anecdotal evidence.
Tell that to a Compean supporter.
Well, if the inmates kill a child molester, then I'm more than fine with that.
Really, it just reflects the fact that we hate this country and enjoy saying bad things about it. Sure, the prisons in Turkey are worse, but we don't hate Turkey, so we'll concentrate on the prisons right here in the US.
Dont drink and drive
Yep. You're right. All the tough guys here on FR that think it can't happen to them (or their kids) are fooling themselves.
good post, B-Chan
Scared straight......It works for me. Obey the law, stay out of prison.
Any prison official that knowingly allows this to happen should be tried and then executed.
No, it is God that requires that we have sympathy for prisoners. I'd be happy to point out chapter and verse if you like.
Funny, there's no outcry at the rape of Israel at the hands of the General Ass-embly.
This guy was a recidivist drunk driver. I wouldn't call that "100% innocent."
Prisoners who rape should be castrated, as should corrections personnel who actively or passively condone rape.
That would surely "fix" this problem.
I still get exasperated by the "if you're not doing anything wrong" crowd around here. Absolutely zero foresight or imagination.
There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for this happening in any American prison. Good reason to privatize the whole dang prison system!
Agree with you 100%.
"The part in bold may be one of the dumber things I've ever seen posted here."
Hardly, I ended up in Allston, MA (Boston) jail for 12+ hours on a case of looking vaguely (very tall, big, beard) like the guy who robbed a taxi.
I'm a large guy (almost 300lbs, very tall and solid), but I am also a Jewish guy, and being the guy with the kippa (which they took and threw away) in a Boston jail overnight was not a fun deal.
I agree with your assesment of the cellie rule, but how much of it happens because it is "allowed" to happen by guards, etc.?
I never said this guy was 100% innocent.
However, many people that are 100% innocent end up in prison every year.
Next time, it might be you.
A little thread hijacking -- since we could presume that inmates are predominantly gay, doesn't this really show that the act of "gay sex" can be separated from having a physical attraction to men? Which would imply that at least some, especially younger boys who are shy and afraid to approach women, might well be seduced into "gay sex" relationships NOT because they are particularly attracted to men, but because it's sex?
"Scared straight......It works for me. Obey the law, stay out of prison."
Mike Nifong, that you?
OOPS, I mean "NOT PREDOMINANTLY GAY".
I think you're right. Solitary confinement under Spartan conditions should be the rule.
The truth is that assault is common in prison for lots of reasons beside rape. One of the Border Patrol agents sent to prison just was assaulted by four men in his federal prison. They beat him mercilessly.
It's stupidity. In effect, the state is providing sex toys or sex slaves to the most violent. What on Earth is just -- or funny -- about that?
It's simply not "very easy to end up in slam in the United States, even if you're 100% innocent." Out of the several 100 million people in the United States a very small percentage have ever been in jail. Should I assume from b-chan's post that most of you folks have been in jail? I don't think so.
In the case of the border agents note the outrage and all the effort by so many people to get them bailed out or pardoned. That's 2 border patrol agents out of about 11,000.
I have worked in several correctional facilities. I do not see how this could occur to the scope the inmate says given the level of observation applied to the inmates. I have no doubt it does happen, but I believe less than indicated here. Still, such barbarism has no place in the correctional system.
good post - thanks for sharing.
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