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October 5, 2013

Noting the shame of prison rape in incarceration nation

David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow have this notable new article in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books headlined "The Shame of Our Prisons: New Evidence." Here is how it begins:

As recently as five years ago, American corrections officials almost uniformly denied that rape in prison was a widespread problem.  When we at Just Detention International — an organization aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of inmates — recounted stories of people we knew who had been raped in prison, we were told either that these men and women were exceptional cases, or simply that they were liars.  But all this has changed.

What we have now that we didn’t then is good data.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an agency within the Justice Department, has conducted a series of studies of the problem based on anonymous surveys that, between them, have reached hundreds of thousands of inmates.  Those who agreed to take the surveys, without being informed in advance of the subject, spent an average of thirty-five minutes responding to questions on a computer touchscreen, with synchronized audio instructions given through headsets. The officials in charge either positioned themselves so they couldn’t see the computer screens or left the room.

The consistency of the findings from these surveys is overwhelming.  The same factors that put inmates at risk of sexual abuse show up again and again, as do the same patterns of abuse involving race and gender, inmates and guards.  Prison officials used to say that inmates were fabricating their claims in order to cause trouble.  But then why, for example, do whites keep reporting higher levels of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse than blacks? Is there some cultural difference causing white inmates to invent more experiences of abuse (or else causing blacks to hide what they are suffering)?  If so, then why do blacks keep reporting having been sexually abused by their guards at higher rates than whites?  The more closely one looks at these studies, the more persuasive their findings become.  Very few corrections professionals now publicly dispute them.

The BJS has just released a third edition of its National Inmate Survey (NIS), which covers prisons and jails, and a second edition of its National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC). These studies confirm some of the most important findings from earlier surveys — among others, the still poorly understood fact that an extraordinary number of female inmates and guards commit sexual violence.  They also reveal new aspects of a variety of problems, including (1) the appalling (though, from state to state, dramatically uneven) prevalence of sexual misconduct by staff members in juvenile detention facilities; (2) the enormous and disproportionate number of mentally ill inmates who are abused sexually; and (3) the frequent occurrence of sexual assault in military detention facilities.

According to the latest surveys, in 2011 and 2012, 3.2 percent of all people in jail, 4.0 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 9.5 percent of those held in juvenile detention reported having been sexually abused in their current facility during the preceding year. (Jails, which are usually run by county governments, typically hold people who have recently been arrested and are awaiting trial or release, or else serving sentences of less than a year; prisons are for those serving longer sentences.)  The rate of abuse in prisons is slightly lower than has been reported in previous years, but the difference is too small to be statistically significant.  For those in jail, the number has not shifted at all.  The rate of abuse in state-run juvenile facilities has declined significantly since the 2008–2009 youth survey, in which 12.6 percent of juveniles reported sexual victimization.  However, this finding doesn’t have much impact on the total number of people victimized since many fewer are held in juvenile detention than in prisons and jails.

October 5, 2013 at 08:09 PM | Permalink


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The BJS survey justifies an aggregate claim for each prison system. The institution has total control of the bodies of rapist and victim. It has centuries old fore knowledge. It has a duty of premises security, far greater than any hotel. Because the victims are young and attractive, there is a discriminatory angle. past experience and fore seeable victimization constitute malice and justify exemplary damages, for these basic failures to protect.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 5, 2013 10:42:56 PM

Inmates have the right to defend themselves against forcible rape with deadly force. Period.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 6, 2013 9:52:52 AM

Litigation over prison suicide resulted in many payouts. Guidelines were developed, and the rate dropped 90% across the country.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 6, 2013 10:13:46 AM

Prison rape is extra-judicial punishment, and violates procedural due process of the Fifth Amendment. The victim should report it within 24 hours. A rape kit should be obtained. If DNA analysis confirms the identity of the rapist, 50 lashes, immediately, as a prison discipline measure. No trial, no huge investigation. If the rapist dies as a result of 50 lashes, so much the better. We have one less violent predator among us.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 6, 2013 10:35:13 AM

Ironic. The vile feminist lawyer traitor protects the ultra-violent predator, especially if an ultra-violent butch lesbian or homosexual prisoner, i.e. one of their own, to the detriment of other criminals, not to mention guards. Why? To generate lawyer make work jobs. Therefore all criminal rights advocates are acting in economic self interest without disclosing this self interest, and are arguing in bad faith.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 6, 2013 10:39:51 AM

One big problem with your plan SC. The same son of a bitch who did the assualt would be the same person taking the rape kit. The STAFF.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 6, 2013 3:45:49 PM

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