Prison Rape: An American Institution?

Prison Rape: An American Institution?

Prison Rape: An American Institution?

Prison Rape: An American Institution?

Synopsis

Rape is a fact of life for the incarcerated. Can American society maintain the commitment expressed in recent federal legislation to eliminate the rampant and costly sexual abuse that has been institutionalized into its system of incarceration?

Excerpt

A federal prosecutor did not want to go through the lengthy legal process to bring to trial a number of men who were fugitives from justice, so he gave them an incentive to turn themselves in right away. In an interview on a public radio program he explained the consequences they would face if they insisted on waiting out the legal process. He told them: “You’re going to be the boyfriend of a very bad man” when we eventually get you into prison. As a court of justice later recognized, the federal prosecutor meant that each of them would be forced to share a cell with a stronger inmate with a reputation as a sexual predator and would inevitably be anally raped or otherwise sexually abused.

It was unusual for a prosecutor to publicly broadcast the threat of sexual abuse, but the practice that his threat revealed is quite common. Prosecutors, both federal and state, routinely use threats of sexual abuse to strike advantageous deals with defendants. They do so regardless of the fact that sexual abuse of any kind is a criminal offense. They are able to do so because sexual abuse of every kind is rife throughout the American incarceration system. Large numbers of male inmates are sexually abused by stronger inmates—with many cases involving repeated gang rapes—as well as by corrections officers. Large numbers of female inmates are also sexually abused; most of the abusers are male corrections officers, who now comprise the great majority of corrections officers in women’s prisons and jails.

The prosecutor gave his broadcast interview in 1997. Sexual abuse had by then been rife throughout the American incarceration system . . .

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