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!