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Prison Rape: Obama’s Program to Stop It
September 25, 2012 1:23 PM   Subscribe

"The Justice Department estimates that more than 209,400 people are sexually abused in US detention every year… A great deal has been learned about this over the past few years. The [Prison Rape Elimination Act] legislation, which charged the [Bureau of Justice Statistics] with undertaking annual statistical analyses of the problem that have proved indispensable, also created a body called the Review Panel on Prison Rape.… A commission charged with issuing recommendations didn’t do so until six years after the bill’s passage; then Attorney General Eric Holder missed by nearly two years the statutory deadline for promulgating them. But the standards that Holder’s Department of Justice finally did issue are very strong."
posted by the mad poster! (51 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Former inmate Melissa Andrews told the review panel about Patrick Owen Gee, who was chief of security at the prison—a man, she said, who seemed to hate women. When he started working at Fluvanna, he “went from wing to wing in each building and told us, ‘you bitches think you’ve been living in Kindercare…things are going to change.’” Andrews also testified that the warden to whom Gee reported, Barbara Wheeler, “said to officers many times, that if she took anything and everything from us including our humanity maybe we would not return to prison.”

There are no words.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The level of civilization in a society may be determined by entering its prisons." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
posted by any major dude at 1:44 PM on September 25, 2012 [24 favorites]


There is sadly little incentive for politicians to protect the rights of prisoners.
posted by steamynachos at 1:47 PM on September 25, 2012


Approximately half of all sexual abuse in detention is committed by staff, not by inmates.

Wow. That is one of the most depressing sentences I've ever read.
posted by jaduncan at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that the culture of accepting sexual abuse inside prisons extends outside of it. Crime and procedural shows are just full of references to prison rape, usually dangled over suspects' heads as a tool to coerce or threaten them. And I know that people make prison rape jokes, too. Treating it as a serious problem means cutting this shit out, too.
posted by liketitanic at 1:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [18 favorites]


There is sadly little incentive for politicians to protect the rights of prisoners.

No difference between being a victim of crime inside or outside of prison, which has always made the right wing emphasis on prison being a place where crimes are permissible (and, occasionally, encouraged - there's certainly a lot of talk of 'pound you in the ass prison') against the demonised prisioners very odd.

Meanwhile, some staff within the Department of Health and Human Services, which has custody of immigrant children who are unaccompanied by adults when detained within the US, are considering whether they can avoid adopting PREA standards through a spurious argument that the shelters in which they hold these children are not confinement facilities.

Must. not. burn. down. relevant. HHS. building.
posted by jaduncan at 1:55 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I loathe all too common jokes about prison rape.
posted by Mr.Me at 1:56 PM on September 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also, on a more utilitarian note: Do you want a criminal returned to the street after he's been raped and tortured? Feel safer about recidivism or escalation? Me neither.
posted by availablelight at 2:11 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Attorney General Eric Holder missed by nearly two years the statutory deadline for promulgating them. But the standards that Holder’s Department of Justice finally did issue are very strong.

What, are they trying to excuse the guy?
posted by IndigoJones at 2:11 PM on September 25, 2012


[Hey there -- this thread is maybe not the greatest place to try out your sarcasm and/or your trolling. MetaTalk is your option. Make an effort please. Otherwise we don't really do the "Hey criminals deserve to be raped" thing here. Try to express yourself more clearly?]
posted by jessamyn at 2:13 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


[A couple comments removed; sarcastic "no but see they deserved to be raped" comments aren't really any better conversational tone-setters than non-sarcastic versions of same. This is a known dicey topic, please proceed with care and help this thread no go off the rails.]
posted by cortex at 2:14 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm really glad this is happening. This is a pretty big topic for LGBT activism because LGBT folk are so disproportionately targeted, but for so many established LGBT groups it's a no-go because it gives the right a way to make LGBT issues about criminals in a really viscerally disturbing way.
posted by klangklangston at 2:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


What, are they trying to excuse the guy?

I couldn't quite summarize the article properly but it goes on to point out that even the new standards have potential pitfalls in implementation and continued vigilance will be required. To be honest, more than the near-decade it took between the commission formation and now, I think it's more of a tragedy that this has been clear in mass media since at least the late 70s but it took until the GWB administration for this act to pass..
posted by the mad poster! at 2:20 PM on September 25, 2012


I'm just going to say that LGBT*I* is particularly relevant in this case, and I like that the article used that phrase.

...and thank you, President Bush and a Republican House and Senate. Not often I'd say that, but there's going to be a really good outcome from the law they passed.
posted by jaduncan at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is sadly little incentive for politicians to protect the rights of prisoners.

I don't know about that; I also can't see much political upside in attempting to remove the measures that protect rights, and the families of those inside are likely to appreciate the increase in safety for their relatives, no?
posted by jaduncan at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2012


No difference between being a victim of crime inside or outside of prison, which has always made the right wing emphasis on prison being a place where crimes are permissible (and, occasionally, encouraged - there's certainly a lot of talk of 'pound you in the ass prison') against the demonised prisioners very odd.

Except that there is a difference, and that difference is that conservatives suppose that once you are a criminal, you deserve everything that is coming to you.

Coupled with the intersection between the prison population and race/class, and you can see why a right wing emphasis on "being hard on crime" doesn't make past the suburb.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:32 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except that there is a difference, and that difference is that conservatives suppose that once you are a criminal, you deserve everything that is coming to you.

What makes you think this view is limited to conservatives? Because I'm not seeing much difference on sentencing or penal policy between either of America's major parties.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:42 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


One day I hope this country will reach the point where we begin to understand that humane treatment and human rights aren't something you have to deserve. You are entitled to not be raped. You are entitled to not be murdered. You are entitled to not have your basic human rights denied to you. No matter what you do to others, or the horrors you inflict, you do not deserve to be treated that way.

This barbaric eye for an eye shit has to go. It's not about punishment, it's not about justice, it's about dehumanization at the very basest level and it demoralizes and punishes us all. Hopefully this is a step on the path away from this madness.
posted by teleri025 at 2:43 PM on September 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


PeterMcDermott, I think that is a stronger argument for the conservatism of both major parties than anything else.
posted by Fraxas at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2012


No matter what you do to others, or the horrors you inflict, you do not deserve to be treated that way.

you know, thinking about which (and I guess jaduncan touched on this) it's not like there's some morality play going on inside prison where the predators become victims--the people who were ganged-up predators outside are still the predators inside, it's kinda just rewarding them
posted by the mad poster! at 3:00 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Want less crime inside: arrest prison rapists, stop prison rape.
Want rehabilitation: arrest prison rapists, stop prison rape.
Want less mental health and drug problems: arrest prison rapists, stop prison rape.

Not that complex.
posted by jaduncan at 3:06 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It makes me fucking sick to my stomach that rape is still the biggest (unspoken) deterrent/punishment to commuting felonies.

Fuck the corrupt, corporate buttlickers who make up our police forces, our judicial system, and our prison-industrial complex. Fuck them fuck them fuck them. May all who're part of the wrong side of that world be damned to spend eternity in the cement and steel hell of their own making.

I realize I'm probably coming across as an angry teenager, but that's how those bastards make me feel. As an aside, a couple of years back I worked at a club that hired an off duty state prison guard as part-time security. I'd never met a more vile, racist, sadistically unhinged asshole before in my life - that is, until I met a few of his coworkers.
posted by item at 3:11 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Without Prison Rape Jokes, Jay Leno's monologues would be at least 25% shorter... (you can consider that another benefit of stopping Prison Rape)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I should add that as awful of a person that guard was - and make no mistake, he was a walking pile of pig vomit - he'd seen the results of prison rape enough times that it'd even gotten to HIS sorry ass. I'm not going to go as far as to say that what he'd witnessed had actually enlightened him, but I did see him stop at least a couple of rape jokes by my similarly lugheaded coworkers dead in their tracks.
posted by item at 3:17 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It looks like the "stop prison rape" organization I'd seen before has been renamed to Just Detention, International. (Wikipedia link). Also, previously.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:18 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It makes me fucking sick to my stomach that rape is still the biggest (unspoken) deterrent/punishment to commuting felonies.

Fuck the corrupt, corporate buttlickers who make up our police forces, our judicial system, and our prison-industrial complex. Fuck them fuck them fuck them.


You see the irony here, right...?
posted by jefficator at 3:23 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just because I say fuck a lot doesn't mean I condone rape, if that's where you're seeing the irony. Fine, replace"fuck" with "to hell with" and then your irony meter won't burn a hole in your pocket.
posted by item at 3:29 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


As part of my routine psychosocial assessments at work, I ask people if they've ever experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. I have had several people say "prison rape, but I guess you wouldn't count that as rape." Once, when I said "of course I do," a huge guy with many prison tattoos became tearful and said "nobody else ever has."
posted by catlet at 3:58 PM on September 25, 2012 [35 favorites]


"nobody else ever has."

Yikes.
posted by item at 4:05 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read this several days ago, and this single throw-away sentence was actually what surprised me the most:

Although they ban pat searches of female inmates by male staff, for example, they do not prohibit female staff from pat searching male inmates, even though the BJS data indicate that most staff sexual abuse is committed by women against men.

I'd like to know a lot more about this. What form does it take? Do the men themselves consider this abuse or is staff/prisoner sex being defined as abuse? How much consensual sex goes on between female staff and inmates?
posted by dgaicun at 4:49 PM on September 25, 2012


Google search indicates no one else on the Internet has quoted that sentence yet.
posted by dgaicun at 4:50 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Note that stats like this, if correct, indicate that it is likely that more people are sexually assaulted inside prison than outside.

Meanwhile, in Norway, approaches to crime and rehabilitation that actually work – treating people like humans, giving them responsibility, and encouraging pro-social activity. And back in the US, widespread chain emails react with outrage over purported cushy conditions in prison; and editorials hock the supposed inferiority of reformative justice.

We have a serious cultural issue going on with our approach to crime and incarceration. We're hurting ourselves.
posted by yourcelf at 5:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


PeterMcDermott, I think that is a stronger argument for the conservatism of both major parties than anything else.

Yeah, no true Scotsman, amirite?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:21 PM on September 25, 2012


dgaicun, please don't wander into victim-blaming territory. If you can't see how the power imbalance inherent in a guard/inmate relationship is by definition abusive and rape, then it's probably best to just stay out of the thread, OK?
posted by ubernostrum at 5:53 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


ubernostrum, dgaicun didn't blame any victim. He asked a perfectly legitimate and valid question to a surprising statistic that was given without any context. He did not, at any point, question the inherent power imbalance in a prison. If anyone needs to stay out of a thread, it's someone who tries to throw their weight around with facile, knee-jerk moralizing. You owe dgaicun an apology.
posted by spaltavian at 6:52 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


spaltavian, the only way it could've been more blatant was if the comment was literally "I wonder how many of them were asking for it".

One of the biggest hurdles with sex abuse of all kinds is getting people to see that it is abuse. This is sadly especially true with male victims nowadays, because of deep-seated cultural stereotypes that "they all want it anyway". So it is never ever constructive to react to statistics on sex abuse by wondering how many rapes were really "consensual", OK? It is never ever a good idea to even hint at the possibility of shifting responsibility onto the victim in any way. Rape is rape.
posted by ubernostrum at 7:03 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it's fair to ask if all sexual contact was counted as abuse or if the people who were involved with the contact considered it abuse.
posted by the mad poster! at 7:07 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the report in question:

Sexual Victimization Reported By Former State Prisoners, 2008
posted by the mad poster! at 7:09 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


They do list much higher rates of "unwilling activity" by female staff on men than other sex configurations.
posted by the mad poster! at 7:13 PM on September 25, 2012


Stop lecturing, ubernostrum. No one is questioning what rape is; the question was how a particular study defined sexual abuse. No one is blaming the victim; they're asking about how statistics were compiled in a study. The study, in case you missed it, is the topic of the thread.
posted by spaltavian at 7:15 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ooh, a study on whether rape is actually consensual. Did they also check for signs of physiological responses to shut down the negative effects of legitimate rapes? Or is that slated for the follow-up?

Look, if you can't see how the word "consent" has no place and no meaning within the framework of the guard/inmate power structure, if your first response is to ask whether it was really "rape", if you think it's "lecturing", or that someone deserves an apology for being called out on such things... then I honestly don't even know where to begin.
posted by ubernostrum at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2012


Thanks for the link mad poster; I'm reading through it right now.

If you can't see how the power imbalance inherent in a guard/inmate relationship is by definition abusive and rape, then it's probably best to just stay out of the thread, OK?

Actually I didn't state my opinion on this at all, ubernostrum, I just asked how the survey itself defined the abuse in those statistics; e.g. by the prisoner's own opinion, or by any sexual contact. It turns out it was the former:

"An estimated 1.2% of former prisoners reported that they unwillingly had sex or sexual contact with facility staff. An estimated 4.6% said they “willingly” had sex or sexual contact with staff."
posted by dgaicun at 8:12 PM on September 25, 2012


I find it nauseating that while the de jure punishment for a given crime is "X time in prison", the de facto punishment is "X months in prison, possibly getting raped, possibly getting HIV, possibly having your right to vote taken away". This report shows rape is so systemic in prison that it can't be treated as "isolated incidents". It's part of the system.
posted by Zarkonnen at 12:44 AM on September 26, 2012


This report shows rape is so systemic in prison that it can't be treated as "isolated incidents". It's part of the system.

I think it's worth saying this is largely a matter of US prisons in the Western world; the article states that "The BJS study is based on a national survey of former state prisoners currently on parole, 9.6 percent of whom said they were sexually abused during their last sentences", but this compares to a rate of below 2% in the UK and 0.3% for juvenile prisioners:

"There has been much less research in the UK, but on the few occasions when this issue was directly addressed, low levels were revealed. McGurk et al. (2000) interviewed 979 inmates aged 15 to 17 years, this being approximately half the population of juvenile prisoners. There were three reports (0.3 per cent) of unwelcome involvement in sexual activity and the same number of seeing an inmate do something sexual to an unwilling inmate. Power et al. (1991), in a study of 559 Scottish prisoners, did not uncover a single case of sexual assault. Strang et al. (1998) found no evidence that imprisonment led to increased same-sex activity. In their random sample of 1,009 adult male prisoners in 13 prisons in England and Wales, only 21 reported ever having had sexual contact with a man in prison, of whom 19 had previously had sexual experience with a man outside prison.

Edgar et al. (2003) interviewed 590 prisoners as part of a wider study of prison violence. Each was asked if they had been sexually assaulted while in custody, if they had witnessed a sexual assault, or if they had been threatened with sexual assault. They were also asked their opinion on how often such activity happened. These data provide a useful index of coercive sexual activity in a range of English penal institutions. The findings were that personal experience of sexual assault in prison was rare. Overall, less than 2 per cent of the prisoners who responded said they had been sexually assaulted whilst in custody; 3 per cent said they had been threatened with a sexual assault; and a further 2 per cent said they had witnessed one. 76 per cent said that sexual assault did not occur at all or that it was rare. It may be, of course, that instances of sexual violence would be found more regularly in the UK if this issue were to be investigated more systematically."
posted by jaduncan at 3:57 AM on September 26, 2012


Why has this never made it to the supreme court as a violation of the 8th and 14th ammendments? I'm assuming groups have been pushing for that. What's the story? Has the supreme court simply refused to hear the case? Has it never actually been argued in any of the lower courts?
posted by jsturgill at 8:13 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Ooh, a study on whether rape is actually consensual. Did they also check for signs of physiological responses to shut down the negative effects of legitimate rapes? Or is that slated for the follow-up?

Look, if you can't see how the word "consent" has no place and no meaning within the framework of the guard/inmate power structure, if your first response is to ask whether it was really "rape", if you think it's "lecturing", or that someone deserves an apology for being called out on such things... then I honestly don't even know where to begin.
"

You're acting like a dick. The question is basically how they measured the incidents because many folks are surprised to see female-on-male as more prevalent, given that this is absolutely not the case for the rest of the world. An analogous question would be how much was statutory rape, i.e. acts criminalized by statute, and how much was aggressive, punitive, etc. Teachers have a position of power that makes all sexual contact with their students illegal, and we don't presume that minors can consent, but there's a fair number of cases where students intended consent.

So knock of your hectoring, because it's not helping the conversation and it insists on ignorance out of some myopic deference.
posted by klangklangston at 8:37 AM on September 26, 2012


arrest prison rapists

While I agree with this in theory, prison rapists have already been arrested (excepting staff). If you arrest them and put them in a prison exactly like the one they're in, what's the difference?
posted by nTeleKy at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2012


jaduncan,

That's interesting about it being largely a US phenomenon in the Western world. I'm a little fuzzy on this, but I recall reading that even in the US this "tough on crime" mentality actually started in the 70s, and that before that rehabilitation was the prevailing doctrine.

I'd be interested in seeing historical data on prison rape. Was it always like this in US prisons? Did it start to rise to the current levels due to the changes in mindset in the 70s? It seems like the core of the problem is this view of prisoners are scum who deserve what they get leading people not to care what happens in prisons.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2012


Parolees who have experienced sexual assault in prison or other assaults need services including access to SSI/SSDI benefits for PTSD (together with preexisting disabilities such as psychiatric or learning) and for survival/not reoffending.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:00 PM on September 26, 2012


Report decries suicides, isolation cells in California prisons: An Amnesty International report says conditions in the state's security housing 'breach international standards.' State officials rebut the findings. Many of the suicides occurred in isolation units.
posted by homunculus at 2:44 PM on September 27, 2012


Nation’s First Privately Owned State Prison Riddled With Violations Of State Law
posted by homunculus at 8:53 PM on October 9, 2012


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