Printer Friendly

Rape behind bars: cell block sexual abuse. (Citings).

PRISON RAPE OCCUPIES a peculiar place in the penal system. Some institutions try to fight it, while others make few such efforts, At times, it's discussed as though it's an unofficial part of the system: one last incentive to obey the law, in case the prospect of sustained isolation and discipline isn't enough. Within the prisons, it's a means of domination as well as gratification: Inmate rape is not merely an individual crime, but an instrument in establishing power relations behind bars.

Statistics on prison rape are spotty, with most states not even bothering to collect data on it. One study, investigating seven prisons in four states, appeared in The Prison Journal in December2000; 21 percent of the inmates surveyed said they had been raped at least once during their confinement. A year later, Human Rights Watch revealed an internal survey from one state (left unidentified) in which "line officers-those charged with the direct supervision of inmates- estimated that roughly one-fifth of all prisoners were being coerced into participation in inmate-on-inmate sex." (Higher-ranking officials gave the lower but still disturbing estimate that an eighth of all prisoners are raped, while the inmates themselves suggested that the proper figure is a third.)

Now a left/right coalition has assembled behind H.R. 1707, the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2003. Co-sponsored by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Bobby Scott CD-Va.), the bill would conduct more complete research on the problem and would "provide information, resources, recommendations, and funding to protect individuals from prison rape?' [ts supporters range from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to Prison Fellowship Ministries, a conservative Christian group run by repentant Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson.

There is some debate over where the money involved should come from. Susan Herman, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, has wondered in print "which states or entities would lose funds to accommodate the funding increases for those that cooperate and make progress in addressing prison rape?' Herman suggests that it would be simpler to give them money previously earmarked for those prisons less willing to cooperate. Even with that caveat, though, she and her group strongly support the bill.

Instead, opposition has come from the Department of Justice. National-Review Editor Rich Lowry reports that some lawyers there "worry that the bill trespasses on federalism principles;' an implausible objection for legislation that does not override state or local authorities and aims only to enforce existing laws. Still, Wolf tells Lowry that "I've had low-level, behind-the-scenes opposition from Justice. We would have passed the bill last year if it hadn't been for some people in the Justice Department?'
COPYRIGHT 2003 Reason Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Walker, Jesse
Publication:Reason
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2003
Words:442
Previous Article:Albino blues: the Winter of copyright discontent. (Citings).
Next Article:Warrantless tracking: eyes in the sky. (Citing).
Topics:


Related Articles
Excluded evidence: The dark side of rape shield laws.
Legal and ethical considerations in research with sexually active adolescents: the requirement to report statutory rape. (Comment).
Suspect in rapes arrested.
Kobe's rights: rape, justice, and double standards.
Lengthy sentence expected for ex-officer.
Speaking the unspeakable.
From Attica to Abu Ghraib--and a prison near you.
Can gay inmates be protected? Roderick Johnson says he was sold as a sex slave in a Texas prison, but a jury found prison officials had done nothing...
Assault behind bars: how big a problem is prison rape--and what can be done about it?

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters