Prison rape is rape, not a punishment

Dante Harrold , @DanteHerald

The U.S needs to evolve in terms of how it see prison rape.

There is a notion that widespread rape in prisons and jails are not treated serious enough by the public because the majority of the victims are males.  For example, popular HBO comedian Bill Maher joked about Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen’s indictment. “Michael Cohen famously said ‘I’d take a bullet for Donald Trump.’ Well, now that he’s looking at prison time, we’ll see if he’s willing to take a dick.”

Jokes about prison rape or glee at the prospect of men guilty of crime being sexually assaulted aren’t by any means rare.

Many people can recall at least a few they’ve heard from friends or associates, or seen in the media — whether that be movies, TV shows or even children’s cartoons. Typically when celebrities are jailed many media outlets start humorously speculating about how and if they’re going to be sexually assaulted.

In this era of #Metoo it is time for America to recognize widespread prison rape for what it is, a massive humanitarian crisis that sees the weak brutalized at the hands of predators. It is something that doesn’t hurt just a few bad guys but society as whole.

First, one myth in regard to prison rape that must be dispelled; contrary to many media depictions, it’s not just a problem affecting weak and bad men. The Bureau of Justice statistics, reports that female prisoners were more than twice as likely as male prisoners to report experiencing sexual victimization by another prisoner.

People need to realize who they’re hurting when they make light of prison rape and it’s probably not the monsters they may think deserve it.  A lot of people accept prison rape to be a form of justice— compupance for wrong doers who’ve violated the law and social mores. They cheer on the prospect of bad men who’ve preyed upon the weak, being sexually brutalized in prison. But typically it’s the most vulnerable in society that are brutalized. Those who’ve been maligned and victimized in society are often the targets of sexual abuse in prison.

Non-heterosexual inmates are more likely to suffer sexual assault than their heterosexual counterparts. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that among jail inmates, heterosexual inmates reported lower rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization and staff sexual misconduct than non-heterosexual inmates.   

Those with mental health issues are often targeted. The BJS reports that among state and federal prison inmates, an estimated 6 percent of those identified with serious psychological distress reported they were sexually victimized by another inmate. In comparison, among prisoners with no indication of mental illness, less than a percent reported being victimized by another inmate. Prison rape must be understood as a massive injustice rather than a form of justice.

It must be noted that prison rape also makes offenders less likely to be able to assimilate back into society once freed. This poses a greater risk not just for themselves but society as a whole. They’re often given the inadequate counseling they’d need to address their trauma, making them more likely to act out when freed and fail to be a productive member of society.

Minimizing the severity of this issue makes society more vulnerable to predators. It must also be noted that it’s not just prisoners sexually abusing other prisoners. Prison staff is often complicit in the sexual abuse or the main abusers altogether, people who can freely go out in society and live their day to day lives.

Per the BJS data, about half of the incidents (51 percent) involved allegations of non consensual sexual acts or abusive sexual contacts of inmates with other inmates, (49 percent) involved staff sexual misconduct or sexual harassment directed toward inmates.

The lack of attention this topic has given cover to predatory prison staff, who pose a risk to the general public than many of the prisoners they are tasked to guard.

Making light of this controversy also depresses the will needed to correct the abuse. It could even have the effect of people starting to accept it as natural. Many people contend the threat of prison is an adequate tool towards preventing crime. Shows like “Scared straight” which features juvenile teens being brought to prisons to be scared by the prisoners who tell tales of how terrible prison is. Many of these tales involve how frequent rape is.

Absent from most of these programs is an indictment of the prison for being the way it is. The crimes these teens are guilty of never rise to the level of negligence, in terms of upholding a system where such tales of sexual assault are so common.

Rape in prison rather being seen as an abomination is lauded as a natural consequence of being imprisoned.

Prison rape doesn’t have to be so widespread. Things can be done to decrease it. Society could decrease the amount of non-violent offenders sent to prison in the first place, then, have those in charge of inspecting prisons be non partisan and independent. End the use of private prisons which often put profit over the safety and welfare of their prisoners.