September 27, 2004

Going to prison soon? Looking to avoid being gang raped? Good news - you now have options... Oh yeah, you might also want to read up on how to avoid AIDS ("try to avoid men who used needles for drugs in the past or are still doing so."), or learn some amazing statistics, or just read some survivor stories. (easily among the more disturbing things i've ever read). If you are so moved, you can help the cause.

It's a good thing we're locking up all those nonviolent yet extremely dangerous criminals. Remember, 1 in 5... think they come out the same people? Stories like these have a special, personal resonance with those of us rather young, white, and feeble. more more more

  • I'm really starting to wonder if these prison rape stories are all blown out of proportion. Not to say there aren't poorly-run facilities that are conducive to this kind of thing, but the American "climate of fear" thing is annoying the heck out of me. Even right now we're driving down to Mexico for a couple of weeks and I'm tired of everyone telling me that we're going to get robbed and kidnapped.
  • PDFed Article about Stephen "Donny the Punk" Donaldson Text only version For another perspective into prison life, there's a book called Newjack where a journalist became a prison guard and wrote about the experience. One of my favorite anecdotes from the book is about an inmate nicknamed Mr. Slurpee (look at bottom of article).
  • Yeah, me too. That whole date rape thing, also - am I supposed to believe that 1 in 5 women is raped, as the justice department is telling me? That can't possibly be true. I mean, if they have to exaggerate so much, it's clearly not an issue worth discussing. Those women were probably asking for it, anyways. It's like child abuse. Never been a problem for me; I've never even seen an abused child and all those scary numbers - well golly they can't possibly be true. Yet you'd think it's some kind of real problem. You know, if you listen to, like, the media.
  • "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
  • rolypolyman: I hope that's a failed attempt at irony.
  • Muchas gracias, humble abbott. I think it's good for monkeys to look outside the cage of their own life experience once in awhile, even though that view can be awfully disturbing at times. It's funny how unwilling people are to acknowledge that a fear of humans is a justifiable emotion, but, for example, the same people might readily admit to being terrified of harmless spiders. Maybe it's because we don't want to acknowledge that our own species can be so venemous.
  • the humble abbott: Now, now, you know that men pbeing raped is funny. It's comedy gold, in fact!
  • rolypolyman C'mon...because you're tired of everyone telling you that you're going to get robbed and kidnapped in Mexico, accounts of prisoner rape in the US are suspect? Can I do one? I hate doing dishes; look! a squirrel!
  • Perhaps the point rolypolyman was attempting to make was that problems may exist, but we dont need to exaggerate them with questionable data to make to prove their existence... like that "1 in 5 rape" page... which if you read it says "raped or sexually assaulted" and I dont know how they defined sexual assault but the idea that 1 in 5 American women is raped- ie violently forced to have sex against her will- is absurd. Sorry, it is. Twisting stats like this does not solve anything or help the genuine victims. Just like taking accidents where a guy who has one beer and is then hit by someone running a red light, and calling it "alcohol related" doesnt do anything to stop drunk driving. At the extreme end of the spectrum, bullshitting up stats about drugs and crime doesnt do anything but fill jails with non-violent pot smokers... dishonesty and hysteria in support of a "good cause" are still dishonesty and hysteria.
  • sorry I misread the rape thing: it says "1 in 5 have been victims of rape or attempted rape" - still no definition of "attempted rape."
  • well, I have known many people who were molested, raped, beaten and otherwise abused, as children and adults. while I agree that living in a state of fear or perpetual expectation of violent, bad things happening, is an unhealthy way to live, that does in no way eradicate the fact that these things do happen. to let a mistrust of the statistics allow a disbelief of the actions, perhaps because we do not like the source, is just one more betrayal of people who have in so many cases already been terribly betrayed. yes, I am talking about the criminals. despite what you may like to believe, they too are people and deserving of basic rights. for those of you out there who live in "free" societies and value your freedoms and civil rights and protections under the law, I would think long and hard about how very important it is to extend those rights and protections even to the most heinous criminals. the minute we start justifying the removal of these protections from one "group" it is that much easier to justify the next removal. who shall it be? women?? gays??? hey, what about those pesky jews? oh right! thats so 1938... ak! this sort of thing makes me think I should go to law school...
  • "the idea that 1 in 5 American women is raped- ie violently forced to have sex against her will- is absurd." Perhaps your women friends aren't telling you about things they sense you don't want to hear.
  • Or perhaps, mj, he's familiar with the fact that the surveys and "studies" the one in five, one in four claims are based upon are generally absolute bullshit. Rape is a sufficiently serious issue that it doesn't need people making up contrived numbers.
  • the one in five, one in four claims are based upon are generally absolute bullshit. And WOOOOOOHOOOOO, there we go, right down the rabbit hole into the magical world of make-believe!
  • the humble abbott excellent post. As far as rape stats go, I'd be inclined to trust the 1-5 thing simply because I believe prison to be a place where a lot more stuff would get documented than out here in freedomville. I've never been in prison, though, so I could be wrong. oh and rolypolyman: if you go to Mexico you will get robbed and/or beaten up. and that's just by the border guards. ok. its a joke. I know quite a few people who never had any bad experiences in mexico and only one group (of six women camping 'alone') who had an unimaginably horrible time.
  • A recent study of prisons in four Midwestern states found that approximately one in five male inmates reported a pressured or forced sex incident while incarcerated. About one in ten male inmates reported that that they had been raped.1 Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff members, vary greatly among institutions. In one facility, 27 percent of women reported a pressured or forced sex incident, while in another facility, seven percent of women reported sexual abuse. Huh. Looks like that 1 in 5 stat refers to MALES who have forced sex or get raped. and 1in 10 say they HAVE. RTFA
  • [T]he idea that 1 in 5 American women is raped- ie violently forced to have sex against her will- is absurd. Just this morning, as I was waiting in line for coffee, my wandering eyes happened to rest by accident on the chest of the cute barista wearing an unusually revealing tank-top. The quantity of cloth separating her nipples from freedom was surely a number small enough to be interesting only to high-energy physicists. Having woken up not half an hour ago, and already running a few minutes late, this momentary glimpse was a godsend. Within seconds my foggy mind had cleared and I could feel blood flowing again through my now obviously alive body. It wasn't until later, after I had crossed the street with a smile and a quick step, that I realized that I had just committed rape.
  • Thanks, moneyjane. I was going to say something of the sort, but you said it much more elegantly. Too many times, I've had conversations with fellow women where it turns out that *every single one of us* has been raped or assaulted. This is something most of these women haven't made common knowledge. (sorry -- this is one of my "hot button" issues)
  • the minute we start justifying the removal of these protections from one "group" it is that much easier to justify the next removal. who shall it be? women?? gays??? hey, what about those pesky jews? oh right! thats so 1938... I agree with you, Medusa, that criminals deserve the same rights than any other human being. But I still think that the "if we permit x, y and eventually z will happen" is a worthless argument template and it should never be used unless thoroughly justified with evidence. In fact, I would argue the other way out saying the reason we don't usually lent respect to the rights of criminals is because we usually believe them to be mostly composed of the kind of human beings for which we have the worst stereotypes (ie. blacks, white thrash, latinos, uneducated and/or slightly retarded people). Labeling them as criminals is a common justification for our bigotry against them. So, as far as we continue fighting for an equal and respectful threatment of those outside of jail we will see a betterment of the treatment of those inside. Not equal, perhaps. But raising standarts nonetheless.
  • I've had that same conversation, meredithea, too many times to count. It's not something we announce to guys, like "Hi! I'm Betsy! I was raped. I love your tie!" For the gents that think rape stats are bullshit, I can absolutely guarantee you that you have female friends, family members, and acquaintances that have been raped. Probably about one in five.
  • It wasn't until later, after I had crossed the street with a smile and a quick step, that I realized that I had just committed rape. fuyugare, that was not rape. At worst, that was ogling. Ogling is not a crime, and some women are proud of their breasts and like to show it. Or them.
  • As a young woman - I would be more afraid to be a young man in jail than to walk down any road in the toughest town at midnight as I am. About the stats from the Dept of Justice:
    "More than half of all women in the U.S. have been physically assaulted at some point in their lives, and nearly 1 in 5 has been raped or a victim of attempted rape, according to a survey published in a Justice Department Research-in-Brief."
    They don't give a definition for attempted rape, but the bit about "more than half" of women being assualted includes a range of assaults from "slapping to shooting qualified as a physical assault." I certainly have been slapped in my life - but I have don't consider myself to have been assaulted. There is a reason many people, including women, are wary of these kinds of statistics - it is because they are used irresponsibly, often by very well meaning people. They should be absolutely clear about their definitions, should never used loaded words like "assault" to talk about everything from slaps to shootings (very different things) - and shock the world with the real, and still very serious statistics. But going for the max number has just caused activists to loose the confidence of a lot of people, including me. This has nothing to do with prison rape though, and takes the thread off-topic. The shockingness of prison rape is it goes on in the open, so prevalent that there are even systems in place - "protective pairing" - for them to cope with it. I don't know if it is because they are prisoners, or because they are men (men who are beaten by their wives are similarly ignored) - but there is no excuse that this should ever happen, not in environments which are suposed to be controlled. (What's the use of prisons if they are not guarded? Of course, what's the use of prisons?)
  • What jb said.
  • The failure to deal with the epidemic of prisoner abuse in North America is a primary symptom of a historic public misunderstanding: the inability of a large majority of the public to rationally understand that the judicial system is not a system of punishment, it is a system to manage criminals for society as a whole. The point of the system is not to torture law breakers. If it was we would still have laws allowing the chopping off of hands for stealing. The point of the system is to limit and reduce the number of crimes committed overall. Some of this is done by locking demonstratably dangerous persons away forever. Some of this is accomplished by ensuring that prison is an unpleasant enough experience that people will want to avoid breaking laws. The vast majority of people will find simple confinement punishment enough. However, the instant you let prison conditions deteriorate to where any significant portion of prisoners is broken or forced to divest their humanity in order to survive, you have created conditions that will inevitably lead to the release of prisoners with greater criminal tendencies than when they were consigned to prison. You have created a perfect recipe for more laws broken, not less. Congratulations, you have undermined the entire purpose of the judicial system.
  • Exactly what Nal said. Whatever happened to the idea that prisons were there, in part, to rehabilitate rather than simply to punish.
  • Even though I sounded a bit snarky on that first comment I do acknowledge the seriousness of the FPP to begin with... I am sure that where prison rapes are institutionalized, it sucks, and I'm glad that the issue is being explored and shared. I do hope the stats are less than what is suggested in the popular media.
  • Whenever I hear one of our local shock jocks or one of their listeners/sympathisers say something like "oh, those prisons, they are like luxury resorts, they even have tvs" I hope for their sakes that they never get divested of their unfortunate delusion. Prisons - think of the worst neighbourhood you've ever lived in and then some and then take into account that you just can't leave the house and catch public transport or walk to a nice part of town for a bit of respite. Must be some strange luxury resorts around.
  • Even if you watered down the numbers, they're still too high. Even if you said that 1 in 20 women are raped or violently abused, even if you said 1 in 20 men were raped or violently abused, does that somehow make it less offensive? The numbers for these kinds of crimes, particularly in the U.S., are unbelievably high. And for the record, I would say that of all the women I know, the number would be very close to 1 in 5 of them having been sexually violated (and I don't mean 'slapped'). You'd be amazed the kind of secrets a woman keeps. If you think you know someone, think again.
  • just to clarify - i don't necessarily believe any of the prison rape, date rape, or child abuse numbers. but i don't have to. because if the real numbers are even a fraction of the un-fucking-believable statistics we're being given, that's a problem that's way, way, way beyond serious. just think: non violent offenders. let it flash through your brain a few times: . unconvicted non violent offenders gang rape unconvicted non violent offenders gang rape repeat for child/child molester scenario and other scenarios as needed.
  • I'm not a "hot button" person in general, but one thing that will always get a reaction from me is when people make stupid frat-boy remarks when they hear someone is going to jail. "He better not drop the soap! Har Har". "We're talking federal bang-you-in-the-a prison" (yes, I know it is an Office Space quote, which doesn't excuse it). Prison rape is not funny and it is not part of the punishment for a crime. I try to challenge people when I find them making either of those assumptions, but I have been almost completely unsuccessful. It is as if people really do vindictively hope that prisoners are abused. The light veneer of supposed humor over it seems to cover their discomfort about the whole thing.
  • Yep, my own mom was raped as a teenager; I didn't find out until a few years ago. I think all my other siblings know, but I'm really not sure. It's just not something you talk about, ya know? Ya think ya know someone...