Stop Prisoner Rape
September 5, 2003 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Bush signs a bill into law that very few people will have anything bad to say about. Most of those who would oppose the new law can't vote, anyway, being members of predatory prison gangs, so I think we're pretty much good on this one.
posted by majcher (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Please note that I mustered all of my determination to not take a cheap shot at Bush in the FPP. Please do your best to follow suit.
posted by majcher at 9:26 AM on September 5, 2003


Hmm, best be careful or we'll make jails and prisons humane places of incarceration.

/sarcasm

Sorry, part of the point of these places is that they have guards out the wazoo. There is no excuse for the ludicrously high rate of prison rape! If the guards can't prevent prisoners from beating, raping, and sometimes even murdering one another, then fire them all and get guards who can! Don't tell me about how prisons and jails are not populated by nice people. Jails by definition are filled with people who have been accused of a crime, sometimes not even indicted. Many of these people will never be convicted of anything; some of them didn't do anything more dangerous than forget to pay a speeding ticket. People in prison have been convicted, but embezzlement or getting caught with a little too much weed is not the same thing as armed robbery and murder.
posted by ilsa at 9:48 AM on September 5, 2003


Good on the pres for allowing this to be brought into the public eye officially. And many congrats to the people at SPR. Let's hope that this will result in a valid and tangible difference.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:51 AM on September 5, 2003


No more dropping soap on a rope
No more frantic prison gropes
How will our hairy prisoners cope

Always wondered about that though, being a pasty white guy, i'd be scared as hell in jail. Pretty boy to boot.....
posted by sourbrew at 9:56 AM on September 5, 2003


On review, what exactly is the "ludicrously high rate of prison rape!" never seen any real statistics. Is it truly that bad or just a good uncomfortable joke for those of us outside the pokey.
posted by sourbrew at 9:59 AM on September 5, 2003


I took a quick look at the legislation. It's great that this is being done, but at the same time I'm appalled that nothing has been done about the problem until now. It seems that guards aren't even provided with any training on how to prevent, treat, or report rapes.
posted by orange swan at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2003


Right from that linked article: "One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other inmates. Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff, reach as high as one in four in some facilities."
posted by some chick at 10:01 AM on September 5, 2003


I applaud Bush for this.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:35 AM on September 5, 2003


My question is this: why did we need a law for this? And, before anyone freaks out, please note that I'm not challenging 1) the fact that it happens, 2) the fact that it's a horror for the victims or 3) that something needs to be done about it.

But, the act is already a crime. Why do we need another law on the books dealing with it? Why couldnt he have just called up Ashcroft and said "John, this prison rape thing is wrong. It's always been wrong, and now it's your job to fix it. Gather statistics, develop guidelines for addressing the problem and provide grants to states to combat the problem. "

Sour - the article states "One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other inmates". I dunno how often "often" means, but that's a pretty intimidating number.
posted by Irontom at 10:38 AM on September 5, 2003


i'd applaud bush, but i'm afraid to drop my soap.
posted by quonsar at 10:40 AM on September 5, 2003


ok, maybe i'm the only one, but isn't there an underlying satisfaction when we read about about a child-molesting priest or a serial rapist going to prison, bound for a taste of their own medicine? i for one, always find it pleasing to think that our prison system has spawned this unspoken sphere of justice on certain sexually deviant criminals
posted by adamms222 at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2003


This wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that many of his corporate pals may soon be spending some quality time up the river, would it?
posted by ElvisJesus at 10:45 AM on September 5, 2003


Irontom - that was my initial question as well, but as I read the article, it isn't about making it illegal. It already is illegal. It's about providing funding and research to produce guidance with respect to best practices that can be pushed down to prison administrators.
posted by willnot at 10:50 AM on September 5, 2003


adamms222, i hope you're the only one.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:51 AM on September 5, 2003


ok, maybe i'm the only one, but isn't there an underlying satisfaction when we read about about a child-molesting priest or a serial rapist going to prison, bound for a taste of their own medicine?

No, there are in fact quite a few of you sick bastards.

i for one, always find it pleasing to think that our prison system has spawned this unspoken sphere of justice on certain sexually deviant criminals

Hey, that's great. Good thing you actually read the article in the FPP an noticed how this was about people who are raped in prison regardless of their crime, in this case civil disobedience, and how some women jails have a 1 in 4 rape ratio (all those deserving-it female Catholic priests, after all.)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:51 AM on September 5, 2003


**SIGH**... XQUZYPHYR, if we can no longer laugh about prison rape, then what really is there left to live for?
posted by adamms222 at 10:58 AM on September 5, 2003


Why couldnt he have just called up Ashcroft and said "John, this prison rape thing is wrong. It's always been wrong, and now it's your job to fix it. Gather statistics, develop guidelines for addressing the problem and provide grants to states to combat the problem. "

Ashcroft can't provide grants for which the funds haven't been appropriated, which takes a law.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:00 AM on September 5, 2003


i for one, always find it pleasing to think that our prison system has spawned this unspoken sphere of justice on certain sexually deviant criminals

I'm not a fan of the old testament's style of eye-for-an-eye vigillante justice, because I don't think emotion brings out the fairest decisions, nor do I think it says much about us beyond that we are animals too, driven by basic instincts to kill -- but I'm sure I'm in the minority.
posted by mathowie at 11:00 AM on September 5, 2003


The law calls for the gathering of national statistics about the problem...

One in five men in prison has been sexually abused


Wait--what? I thought they needed statistics?
posted by gottabefunky at 11:04 AM on September 5, 2003


>I applaud Bush for this.

For what? For not pocket-vetoing this?

The Prison Rape Elimination Act was drafted and pushed by two democrats and two republicans. It passed the House and Senate unanimously. Its not like the White House or Bush administration helped push this through. I don't remember Bush ever talking about this. This is the doings of Congress. You should be applauding them.

More info here.
posted by skallas at 11:14 AM on September 5, 2003


Adams22-

I agree wholeheartedly with you. While prison rape is something deplorable for the most part, I've covered court trials for kiddy rapists and I must say I'm glad to know they'll be taking it themselves in jail. It's a shame that others, like the two nonviolent protesters mentioned in the press release, have to undergo that sort of abuse though .... So I guess I'd say I'm glad this law is being passed and I hope guards will still continue to look the other way when a pedophile gets put behind bars. Vengeful? Yes.
posted by Happydaz at 11:36 AM on September 5, 2003


Does this mean we're going to stop fucking other countries in the ass too?
/derail
/snark
posted by tr33hggr at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2003


That's it, no point in going to prison now. I officially change my policy from "going peacefully" to "You'll never take me alive!"


----getting in last of the prison rape jokes.......

Oh, and good point skallas. I've always felt that the President (the office, not the individual) is given waaaaay to much credit. "I improved the economy", "I stopped prison rape", "I made the Soviet Union collapse." No, no you really didn't Mr. President.
posted by Mushkelley at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2003


I wonder how much situational homosexual behavior will be reported as prison rape now: many men already report being raped when the sex was actually consensual, if still demeaning, because saying you were raped in prison absolves you of the responsibility of the things you have to do to survive in prison. I wonder what training will be given to prison staff to give them the ability to discriminate between the two behaviors. Having been there myself, I'm glad that *some*thing's being done, but I find myself casting a skeptical eye because many people who agitate for reforms of this type are completely unwilling to believe that there's sex in prison beyond the scope of prison rape. And statistics lie because people lie, and they lie the most in prison.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2003


ElvisJesus gets my (admittedly valueless) best comment of the thread award. One only wishes that it were true.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:39 AM on September 5, 2003


What about all the bitches who've accumulated considerable ass-rape currency over the years? What are they supposed to do now?
posted by scarabic at 11:45 AM on September 5, 2003


Irontom: "the article states "One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other inmates". I dunno how often "often" means, but that's a pretty intimidating number."

I read that differently and wondered who was sexually abusing the rest of the men, the guards?
posted by DBAPaul at 11:45 AM on September 5, 2003


I've covered court trials for kiddy rapists and I must say I'm glad to know they'll be taking it themselves in jail.

Isn't this just perpetuating a cycle though? Some "kiddy rapists" end up undergoing counseling while in prison, as I seem to remember that the goal of prison is to reform criminals for release (at least those without life sentences).

If you go to a counseling session that tells you sexual abuse is wrong, then immediately walk into a sexual abuse session in your own cell or the showers.... well, I seem to see a conflicting message here.
posted by mikeh at 11:46 AM on September 5, 2003


"Does this mean we're going to stop fucking other countries in the ass too?"

Iraq was asking for it, always flaunting her giant oil reserves in our face like that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:47 AM on September 5, 2003


Hmm. I don't mean to be anal, but it doesn't seem like Bush to get behind something and push it through unless his self-interest is being gratified at the same time. What happened in the backrooms to ease the passage of this legislation? Perhaps, as ElvisJesus suggested, Bush is afraid some of his corporate cronies will need their asses covered. Bernard Ebbers, I'm looking at you, sweet thang.
posted by stonerose at 11:48 AM on September 5, 2003


Seriously, though - I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the public health angle of this: Ultimately, 95 percent of all inmates are eventually released, creating a tremendous flow of prisoners back into society ... Correctional institutions have an HIV/AIDS rate five to ten times higher than that of the general population.
posted by stonerose at 11:55 AM on September 5, 2003


No one here has mentioned yet that in many US prisons boobies mags are not allowed at all. I'm talking about light stuff, not triple-X. (I, of course, would let them have triple-X materials too). This is in no way meant to condone anything. But it certainly is a small part of the issue.
posted by magullo at 11:59 AM on September 5, 2003


What I found alarming was that 1 in 4 female convicts are raped by guards. I always thought rape was more common in male prisons. *shudder*

Those guards need to be on the other side of the bars.
posted by jopreacher at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2003


Hmm. I don't mean to be anal

If ever there was a lob-pitch over the fat part of the plate ... anyone, anyone, Bueller?
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2003


I am of the mind that you shouldn't get ANYTHING in prison, magazines or no. Just educational materials. And I never understood why any prison should have populations that mingle. Just asking for trouble there.
posted by agregoli at 12:15 PM on September 5, 2003


"...anal...behind...push it through...gratified...backrooms...ease the passage..."

Bloody brilliant, that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:16 PM on September 5, 2003


This all well and good, but I can't help think that perhaps this legislation should also have had some catchy acronym-based title. PREA hardly sets the imagination on fire. I would have suggested FINALLY, GUARD, or WARDEN.

In other words, "Thank you, Mr. President. Now let's be sure this piece of legislation is not ignored and relegated to obscurity in deference to The Grumpies that make up a large portion of your constituency."
posted by Fezboy! at 12:36 PM on September 5, 2003


Wolfdaddy raises an interesting point. The statistics for something like this are bound to be flawed, ranging from those who upon release decide to describe consensual sex acts as abuse to those who fabricate abuse in the hopes of transfer. This is, of course, is a two edged sword as a great many incidents go unreported for fear of reprisal or being perceived as a punk.

Prison rape is going to remain unjustifiable. Victims will say that it happens to everyone to avoid being seen as weak. Assailants will deny it in fear of additional time being added or loss of privileges. Administrators will minimize it to head off allegations of incompetency.

It's a shame that they are painting with such a broad brush. Most of us in corrections take prisoner on prisoner violence very seriously and are fully aware that we have a mandated responsibility to keep people healthy and alive. They may not be happy and we're not big on group hugs, but we do like them to remain intact.

One of the largest problems with inmate sexual activity (both consensual and otherwise) is that it propagates a barter economy where sexual favors are traded like so many crates of cigarettes. Intimate relationships and violence only complicate the already extreme power politics of prison life. Sure there are abuses, oversights and plain mistakes but most of the time we get it right and the concept that anyone entering the system is going to be fighting for their lives or giving up their manhood an hour after intake simply isn't true. Believe it or not, we're not a bunch of redneck idiots and actually have some pretty smart people classifying inmates and making housing assignments. We're not going to put your pot smoking college kid in cell with the Michigan Booty Bandit.

Concerning the legislation, I'm of the opinion that it's a placebo. Existing laws exist and are enforced. Unfortunately there will always be a small percentage of long term, habitual recidivists, or just plain violent assholes who couldn't care less. This law is not going to change that. If they want to make a dent in prison violence, sexual and otherwise, one solution is the repeal of mandatory sentences for non violent offenders. This will raise the officer to inmate ratio to a manageable level and remove the need for double, triple and quadruple bunking in areas designed for one person. Overcrowding leads to compromises that endanger both prisoners and employees-- allow us to manage our facilities in the way that they were designed and we just might regain some control-- making everyone concerned safer.
posted by cedar at 12:44 PM on September 5, 2003


Damnit, keep your laws off my body!
posted by mikrophon at 12:54 PM on September 5, 2003


I applaud Bush for this.

Do you really think that he spearheaded this effort? Or that any president would have opted not to sign it into law? The fact the Bush is the president that signed it makes no difference. It is a very important step toward prisoner rights, and it has almost nothing to do with Bush.
posted by mikrophon at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2003


i for one, always find it pleasing to think that our prison system has spawned this unspoken sphere of justice on certain sexually deviant criminals

If that were the case, then maybe there'd be a glimmer of cathartic revenge there, but I'm willing to bet that the ones who do the raping inside prisons are the same ones who do the raping outside prison, predatory sociopaths. The victim is more likely to be a skinny 18 year old car theif or a dope peddler with no tattoos and feminine features. Then those victims come out of prison, a hundred times harder and angrier than they were going in, and they walk your streets.

So, even if you don't care much about the prisoners, think of that.
posted by jonmc at 1:07 PM on September 5, 2003


Ex-con Chuck Colson's unique perspective.

Why does Bush care so much about prisoners? Most politicians look the other way. Well, the president is a Christian. He reads his Bible. He knows that men behind bars are the ones Jesus called “the least of these my brothers.” And this president doesn’t stop with reading the Bible—he acts.

So there.

See also Press Secy McClellan's announcement of this on Air Force One, in which he couldn't get past it to the next topic (Kansas City) fast enough. (The prison what?)
posted by beagle at 1:22 PM on September 5, 2003


I notice the bill passed unanimously. Did Santorum appear, or did he... abstain?
posted by stonerose at 1:32 PM on September 5, 2003


best comment of the thread
Why? They're the one in five not raped, typically these federal prisoners have it easier.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:40 PM on September 5, 2003


Santorum was probably out working against a real threat to society: your Uncle Dave and his pal Sam wanting to get married.
posted by digaman at 2:01 PM on September 5, 2003


Hmmm...the Enron boys must be getting ready to enter their guilty pleas.
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:07 PM on September 5, 2003


Referring to the Chuck Colson piece linked above ... this is what I mean about many agitating for prison rape reform wanting to utterly deny anything but rape happens in prison.

They don't really want to stamp out prison rape. They want to utterly erase homosexuality, that's the agenda. Praise Jesus.

Also, thanks for your comments, cedar!
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2003


jopreacher - What I found alarming was that 1 in 4 female convicts are raped by guards. I always thought rape was more common in male prisons. *shudder*

jopreacher, you've been mislead, and I think it was intentional. Here's the relevant passage from the link:
One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other inmates. Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff, reach as high as one in four in some facilities.
The rates for men and women are presented in a fashion that feels parallel, but a close reading shows that the reader is being given information that can not be compared between the men and the women.

For men we have an overall figure: one in five.

For women we are told the worst case, and only the worst case, in place of the global number we get for men. "Rates for women... reach as high as one in four in some facilities.

When faced with writing that deceptive, one has to throw out even the standard benefit of the doubt you'd grant for the purpose of linguistic expediency, leading to an unanswered question raised by the (purposeful?) ambiguity regarding the place the abuse happened. "One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other inmates." Technically, that statement may include abuse that happened outside prison to men now in prison.

You know, it really boggles the imagination to think about how hard it must be to write an article about fighting rape and having it piss off sympathetic people.
posted by NortonDC at 10:32 PM on September 5, 2003


PREA hardly sets the imagination on fire.

Sounds exactly like the way G.W. might say "prayer."
posted by kindall at 11:33 PM on September 5, 2003


"i for one, always find it pleasing to think that our prison system has spawned this unspoken sphere of justice on certain sexually deviant criminals"

Im not ashamed because I think sexual predators deserve to be violently killed. Ooh, did I piss someone off?
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:53 AM on September 6, 2003


Im not ashamed because I think sexual predators deserve to be violently killed.

Maybe they do deserve it, Keyser Soze, but that's not really the argument here. It's one thing to talk about what a criminal deserves and quite another to talk about guards and prison officials turning their backs and/or not having the skill/tools to prevent rapes from taking place. As has been pointed out many times in this thread rapes take place regardless of what the victim's crime may have been and I don't want guards making that judgment about who deserves it or who doesn't.

Perhaps you'd like to discuss whether we should sentence some criminals to be raped - and perhaps there are others in this thread who wouldn't mind debating that with you - but since they haven't been sentenced to be raped it should not be taking place.

Back in college I knew someone in a corrections program who was doing a work placement at the Don Jail here in Toronto. He told me that they'd locked up a 18-year-old boy for the weekend for being drunk and disorderly. He hadn't been there 12 hours before he was raped. He cried all weekend and was released on Monday. This is the kind of thing that happens all the time in prisons and it needs to stop, regardless of the crime the person may have committed.
posted by orange swan at 7:53 PM on September 7, 2003


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