Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ignoring prison rape

Anyone with a family member or friend in prison grows to hate the inevitable "don't drop the soap" joke. Jokes about prison rape are rife when discussing someone convicted of a sex crime.

The idea seems to be that someone in prison for a sex crime is so evil that it is acceptable for another inmate to commit a sex crime against him.
In this manner, rape is treated as a feature of our justice system when it happens to prisoners, rather than what it is: another grave crime.
Sexual assaults in prison are not only inmate on inmate. No, they too often include assaults by prison staff. In his article in The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty quotes from
Roughly 200,000 men, women, and children reported being sexually abused in detention facilities in 2011, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has anonymously self-reported data from inmates.
If the jokesters are any indication, this is acceptable. Instead, let's recognize those jokes for what they really mean.
Acceptance of prison rape is a stinking corruption. No conception of justice can include plunging criminals into an anarchic world of sexual terror. And obviously it thwarts any possibility of a rehabilitative justice that aims to restore criminals to lawful society. Inmates are not improved or better integrated into society through physical and psychological torture.
Dougherty reminds us that what the government does to prisoners, it does in our name. In a moral world, that in itself is reason to work toward reducing prison populations. The larger the prison population is, the more we will see stinking corruption.
Prison rape ... vitiates any sense of retributive justice, since rape is not a proper punishment for a crime. Allowing prison rape is just a vindictive horror, and when accepted under the name of punishment makes criminals the victims of justice.
Prison inmates--save for a very few--are released back to society and we ought to want them to come back ready to be part of our society. Do our prisons prepare them for the return? 
Absent major and drastic reform of our prison system, however, the "lesson" our justice system teaches is not that crimes will be punished, but that getting caught may send you to unpredictable horrors; that our society's primary way of dealing with criminality is plunging you into more of it; and that the rod of the law comes in the form of supermax cruelty.
The statistics Dougherty uses show that prison rape is all too common. If it is, that is a problem that can be tackled with more oversight of and accountability for prisons.

How to solve the more insidious problem of people horrified by rape losing that sense of horror when it happens behind the razor wire? 

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