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April 18, 2015

"Why We Let Prison Rape Go On"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new commentary in today's New York Times authored by Chandra Bozelko. Here are excerpts:

It’s been called “America’s most ‘open’ secret”: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, around 80,000 women and men a year are sexually abused in American correctional facilities. That number is almost certainly subject to underreporting, through shame or a victim’s fear of retaliation. Overall, only 35 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to the police in 2010, and the rate of reporting in prisons is undoubtedly lower still.

To tackle the problem, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. The way to eliminate sexual assault, lawmakers determined, was to make Department of Justice funding for correctional facilities conditional on states’ adoption of zero-tolerance policies toward sexual abuse of inmates....

But only two states — New Hampshire and New Jersey — have fully complied with the act. Forty-seven states and territories have promised that they will do so. Using Justice Department data, the American Civil Liberties Union estimated that from 2003 to 2012, when the law’s standards were finalized, nearly two million inmates were sexually assaulted.

Six Republican governors have neglected or refused to comply, complaining of cost and other factors. Rick Perry, then the governor of Texas, wrote to the Justice Department last year stating that 40 percent of the correctional officers in male facilities in Texas were women, so that “cross-gender viewing” (like witnessing inmates in the shower, which contravenes the legal guidelines) could not be avoided. The mandated measures, he said, would levy “an unacceptable cost” on Texas, which has one of the highest rates of prison sexual assault....

Ultimately, prisons protect rape culture to protect themselves. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about half of prison sexual assault complaints in 2011 were filed against staff. (These reports weren’t all claims of forcible rape; it is considered statutory sexual assault for a guard to have sexual contact with an inmate.)

I was an inmate for six years in Connecticut after being convicted of identity fraud, among other charges. From what I saw, the same small group of guards preyed on inmates again and again, yet never faced discipline. They were protected by prison guard unions, one of the strongest forces in American labor....

The Justice Department estimates that the total bill to society for prison rape and sexual abuse is as high as $51.9 billion per year, including the costs of victims’ compensation and increased recidivism. If states refuse to implement the law when the fiscal benefit is so obvious, something larger is at stake.

According to Allen Beck, senior statistical adviser at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “institutional culture and facility leadership may be key factors in determining the level of victimization.” Rape persists, in other words, because it’s the cultural wallpaper of American correctional facilities. We preserve the abuse because we’re down with perps getting punished in the worst ways.

Compliance does not even cost that much. The Justice Department estimates that full nationwide compliance would cost $468.5 million per year, through 2026. Even that much is less than 1 percent of states’ spending on corrections. Putting aside the cruelty and pain inflicted, prison rape costs far more than the implementation of the law designed to stop it.

April 18, 2015 at 03:12 PM | Permalink


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What does it take for the inmates in these prisons to organize themselves against prison rape as several radical groups like the Black Muslims and others did during the early 1970's in places like Angola Prison, Louisiana, and Attica Penitentiary in Upstate New York? The Angola Muslims forced the Louisiana Prison system, at least for a while, to put a stop to sex slave trading that had been rampant there prior to the uprising. To be sure, some of these radical activists against prison rape got framed for the murder of corrections officers and/or wound up in solitary confinement for several years. But even if they had not banded together against prison rape, they would still have been targets for equally brutal mistreatment. What do individual inmates do to fend off rapists, either staff or other inmate?

Posted by: william r. delzell | Apr 18, 2015 3:51:36 PM

"...nearly two million inmates were sexually assaulted..."


"(These reports weren’t all claims of forcible rape; it is considered statutory sexual assault for a guard to have sexual contact with an inmate.)"

Yet another made up lawyer fiction by the vile feminist lawyer and its male running dogs. All sex is rape to the vile feminist lawyers because of the unequal status of women. The exception is, of course, lesbian sex, because that is what so many of them are. They immunize themselves from their false allegations.

That being said, defund these vile feminist lawyers by applying straight torts. They have total control of the bodies of the rapist and of the victim. If they have knowledge, then subject them to exemplary damages.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 18, 2015 4:38:10 PM

All prison rapes should be rated as 3 in 123D. Kill them all. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 19, 2015 1:30:05 AM

The PREA is weak watered down legislation. There was the prison abuse remedies act which had a hearing held on it, however despite 60 votes by a democratic senate with the house and president, it did not pass.

Posted by: Morgan | Apr 19, 2015 3:28:07 AM

Let me clarify, it did not receive a vote, but hearings were held, however with democrats control in all 3 branches with a supermajority in the senate, it appears it was let down. I doubt it was much of a partisan issue like abortion for instance, just disappointment with our congress.

Lawsuits under the PLRA require showing of physical injury for lawsuits to occur, although rape can qualify often sexual assault may or may qualify due to a hurdle.

Posted by: Morgan | Apr 19, 2015 3:30:43 AM

I meant may or may not qualify

Posted by: Morgan | Apr 19, 2015 3:32:30 AM

The prisons dropped suicide and homicide inside their walls by 90%, in one of the greatest behavioral achievements of the 20th Century, without additional cost, staffing, or programs. They added a few hours of training and changed a policy manual. The method is mostly supervision. They know how to get things done when litigation motivates them.

Repeat in the case of rape.

Where are the tort lawyers when they could actually be useful?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 19, 2015 10:27:53 AM

SC should read the posts above, THE PLRA makes it difficult for attorney's to sue and makes it financially unattractive.

Posted by: alex | May 7, 2015 1:29:36 PM

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