“US: Federal Statistics Show Widespread Prison Rape”

Link to article: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2007/12/16/usdom17560.htm

After reading the Human Rights Watch article titled, “US: Federal Statistics Show Widespread Prison Rape,” I have discovered that prisons not only deprive an individual of liberty and freedom, but they are also extremely unsafe.   This article clearly demonstrated that there is a good possibility that a person who enters prison will be sexually abused.  A striking statistic in this report was that in one year (2007) alone more than 70,000 prisoners were sexually abused.  In my eyes this is something that is clearly a problem with institutions nationwide.  

The article also reported that sexual abuse is not only common amongst prisoners, but also with staff.  I think that the prison environment in a way invites staff to violate offenders because it is unlikely that it will result in a penalty.  Who is the warden going to believe a prisoner or one of his guards?  Clearly, this is not a difficult question to answer.  This leads me to my next point that this article allowed me to think about.  I really believe that prison guards have too much control.  Although I’m certain that not all abuse their power, the few that do can force the public to question guard integrity as a whole.  It often seems that it is a lose-lose situation for the inmate and no one will believe his or her side of the story.

With that said, prison rape and other forms of sexual abuse are clearly an issue in this nation’s prison system.  The government has to figure out ways to protect these inmates who are already suffering enough.  Minimizing sexual abuse in prisons will only make the environment less hostile and dangerous.  Guards and other staff need to be aware of the situations and not turn their backs on what is happening.  In order to reduce this type of behavior there is a need for collaboration and cooperation of several parties.  





4 Responses

  1. I wrote a term paper on rape in prison a few semesters back. Throughout my research, I too was surprised by how prevalent this problem is. The young and mentally ill are easy targets. Often they give in fearing that worse things could happen to them if they refuse; however, inmates have said it is better for the victim to refuse being turned out. Once you give in it is nearly impossible to gain back any respect and soon others will take advantage of the situation. I found it interesting that the men within the prison community consider themselves heterosexual as long as they are the aggressors. The reason behind rape in prison is rarely about sexual gratification or physical attraction. It is about violence, politics, power, and business. Since this is the case, what would you suggest could be done to reduce this behavior? How could someone subjected to this brutality deal with it? I think it would be especially hard, in different ways, for both parties of this abuse to be returned back to society and lead a normal sexual life.

  2. I was shocked to read that over 70,000 prisoners were sexually assaulted in 2007 alone. That is a large number of assaults in prison. It makes me wonder how many people not in prison were sexually assaulted, because I would like to compare the two figures. I agree that this article shows that many prisons are unsafe and need to be regulated and watched over more. Some guards feel that abuse equals power and many inmates feel the same way too. I think for power reasons, these assaults occurred.

    -Lora S.

  3. Another reason for such high numbers of prisoners who are sexually abused is the great over crowding situation facing many prisons today. This is especially true on the west coast where the three strike policy leads to more and more men and women getting locked up for life every year.
    When prisons are over crowded it becomes more difficult for the staff to watch the actions of each individual, therefore more goes unseen either because staff does not want to deal with it or because they truly don’t see it. Many prisons have had to convert gymnasiums into mass sleeping rooms where numerous prisoners stay for 6 hours a night. Lots of time, lots of prisoners, and fewer staff means more opportunities for abuse.
    I also think that staff needs to be more willing to address sexual abuse when they see it. But I highly doubt that this will happen because there are many cases like you said, where prisoners are sexually abused by the guards or other staff members. This is just one of the many downfalls of the criminal justice system in the United States.

  4. This is a very troubling issue- sexual abuse in prisons. In order to make the situation better, we need to evaluate what conditions enable sexual abuse, and what measures can be taken to ameliorate these conditions. One problem is definitely overcrowding. If prisons are overcrowded, people are more likely to be abusive. Another issue which was mentioned was guard abuse. I think that a possible solution is high regulations and penalties for guards who abuse inmates. Guards seem to think that it is they who are punishing, but they should be able to be punished if they do wrong. What other issues give rise to sexual abuse?

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