Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stop Prison Rape

Andrew Sullivan links to an op-ed piece in the LA Times about the deleterious effects to male inmates and to society at large of society's tacit acceptance of male prison rape. We all know it goes on, but we joke about it instead of viewing and rejecting it as the inexcusable physical and mental torture that it is. According to the article, a 2007 survey by the Department of Justice showed 20% of inmates admitting to being coerced into unwanted sex, and 10% admitting to being violently raped during the previous twelve months. This is unconscionable! No one deserves to be raped!

Here is a telling passage from the article:

Morally, our tacit acceptance of violence within prisons is grotesque. But it's also counterproductive. Research by economists Jesse Shapiro and Keith Chen suggests that violent prisons make prisoners more violent after they leave. When your choice is between the trauma of hardening yourself so no one will touch you or the trauma of prostituting yourself so you're protected from attack, either path leads away from rehabilitation and psychological adjustment.

And we, as a society, endure the consequences -- both because it leads ex-cons to commit more crime on the streets and because more of them end up back to jail. A recent report released by the Pew Center on the States revealed that more than one in 100 Americans is now behind bars. California alone spends $8.8 billion a year on its imprisoned population -- a 216% increase over what it paid 20 years ago, even after adjusting for inflation.

That's money, of course, that can't be spent on schools, on job training, on wage supports and drug treatment. Money, in other words, that can't be spent on all the priorities that keep people out of prison. Money that's spent instead on housing prisoners in a violent, brutal and counterproductive atmosphere. And there's nothing funny about that.

And here is a link to a website and organization dedicated to ending this horrible abuse.

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