Prison Rape: Not Inevitable

March 8th, 2011 at 9:10 am David Frum | 9 Comments |

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Some US prisons do a much better job than others of protecting inmates from sexual abuse.

In the current New York Review of Books, David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow divide the universe of US prisons in half.

They calculate that if all US prisons met the standards of the best half of US prisons, then instead of

the 199,500 people who the department says were abused in adult prisons and jails, there would have been about 93,100. More than 100,000 adults (as well as many thousands of children) would have been saved an experience from which few recover emotionally.

Kaiser and Stannow note the difficulties and costs of raising standards. One of the most-cited difficulties is that higher security standards would require major changes in prison staffing practices.

For example, a ban on cross-gender pat-down searches would require prisons to employ more male guards and fewer women than many prisons currently employ.

In reply, Kaiser and Stannow offer an answer that might have come from Governor Scott Walker himself. Prisons, they write, “should not give higher priority to the employment concerns of corrections staff than to an essential purpose of their jobs, which is ensuring the safety of inmates in their care.” If only that idea could spread to all public agencies!


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9 Comments so far ↓

  • NRA Liberal

    Public unions responsible for prison rape. Nice.

  • Nanotek

    Thank you for highlighting the issue.

    Part of the problem is that victims are intimidated into silence because “snitching” is punished by many inmates. Microphones embedded in the cells could intimidate their predators.

    “…they write, ‘should not give higher priority to the employment concerns of corrections staff than to an essential purpose of their jobs, which is ensuring the safety of inmates in their care.’ If only that idea could spread to all public agencies!”

    that makes no sense to me

  • Tempest in a Frumpot

    Nanotek, I agree, it is gibberish. If I were a prison guard and feared for my life daily, how much could I possibly be expected to care about the population that I am afraid is going to end my life?
    And I also do not know what this petty resentment against prison guards is being driven by. Stop prison rape by gutting the benefits and wages of prison guards?

    And I would love to know just how the hell a cross gender pat down causes Prison rape.
    Hey, I have a much simpler solution. Stop throwing people in jail for taking drugs, and for the big fish dealers, (provided they are convicted of just dealing) throw them in jails with nonviolent offenders. Then throw violent offenders together in prisons with only other violent offenders.

  • Carney

    Applause to Frum for highlighting this issue more than once.

    8th Amendment cases are nearly always frivolous (Nutraloaf is not cruel and unusual punishment, nor is the death penalty – which is specifically mentioned as an option in the Constitution itself).

    However, given the widespread public gloating and chuckling at prospect of prison rape, which sometimes extends to elected officials (including at one point the Attorney General of California), and the apparent systematic indifference and neglect of this matter by prison officials, it might be reasonably inferred that rape is a consciously chosen “punishment” inflicted on prisoners. And THAT most certainly qualifies as an 8th Amendment violation.

  • rbottoms

    It’s tolerated because the brutalization of prisoners is a culturally acceptable punishment enhancement. Is there a single cop show that doesn’t include the prospect of so weak prisoner being raped as a inducement to cooperate?

    Aren’t we expected to laugh at jokes about prison rape and feel that the scum are getting what they deserve? It will stop when we demand it stops, when we take the sexual security of inmates seriously and start punishing the wardens and guards who tolerate the behavior in their institutions. And of course when we spend the money on it, which of course means never.

    • Carney

      I agree. We are all brutalized as a society when we tolerate, let alone celebrate, prison rape.

  • MSheridan

    Carney and rbottoms,

    +1.

    • pnwguy

      Carney and rbottoms to the nth power. It’s nice to see some meeting of the minds of polar opposites here on the forum.

      With state governments in hideous cash binds, I’d expect even more demonization of those caught in the criminal justice system. The public by and large has been fed such a diet of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” grandstanding. My fear is that looking at the complexity of prisons, punishment, rehabilitation, and the conversion of criminals into productive society members will get even less attention by state voters than before.

  • zephae

    “Nanotek, I agree, it is gibberish. If I were a prison guard and feared for my life daily, how much could I possibly be expected to care about the population that I am afraid is going to end my life?”

    This is a straw man. The cost to prison guards identified in the OP is about shifting the way employment is done, namely that some women would lose their jobs and men would fill those positions. The focus was clearly on employment itself rather than working conditions or benefits. Further, none of the reforms proposed in the article that was linked pose a risk to the safety or compensation of prison guards. Many of the proposed changes are improvements in processes and management, such as access to counseling, access to the legal system, being able to report abuse to an unaffiliated entity, and broader applicability of the rules to include immigration detention and parole officers.

    The problem with the union here is not its ability to negotiate fair compensation and a safe working environment, but rather it’s ability to dictate management decisions.