On Prison Rape

There's nothing funny about prison rape – Los Angeles Times Recently I watched the excellent Spike Lee film 25th Hour, staring Edward Norton as convicted drug dealer Monty Brogan who is being sent away for a 7 year stint in prison.

Norton is portrayed as a good enough guy (he saves a dying dog in the beginning of the film for instance) who sort of somehow ended up on the wrong side of the tracks anyways. Although Brogan very much is guilty of the charges of dealing drugs, he’s not the sort of guy who most people would really be worried about having out on the streets.

One of the central concerns and themes of the film is what will happen to Brogan once he makes his way to prison. The concept of prison rape comes up regularly. I’m not going to give away the ending to the film, but I will say something happens in the end to Brogan that is very much a social commentary on what it means to risk rape in prison.

Rape in prison is an ugly thing. For many people I think the fear of prison rape is the worst thought about being locked up — worse than the loss of personal freedom, worse than the boredom, worse than being kept away from friends and family. The thought of being sexually violated is one of the worst thoughts of all.

Now some might say that maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this makes prison that much more of a deterrent for people who might commit crime. But for many in prison their rapes are tragedies. They are deep moral marks of deficiency on our society. The Eighth Ammedment to the US Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. And yet as a society we make light of prison rape and allow an unusually high percentage of it to take place.

I’m not sure what the answer is to preventing rape in prison, but I think as a society we have an obligation to ensure that it happens less than it happens today.

to this end it was interesting reading an Op/Ed on prison rape from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. While on the one hand chiding political types like Bill Lockyear for suggesting prison rape as a just tool for law and order, the op/ed piece forces us to reconsider just how the idea of prison rape is allowed to continue in our culture and in a very real way in the prisons across the U.S.

It makes you think.

Update from Jay’s comment below more info at Stop Prisoner Rape.

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4 Comments

  1. Jay says:

    Stop Prisoner Rape (http://www.spr.org) has been around for a while. Their academic articles section has some interesting reads; e.g. “Violence in California Correctional Facilities: An Empirical Examination of Sexual Assault”, http://spr.org/pdf/VJReport2007.pdf.

  2. Ian Crane says:

    I am not the sort that commits serious crimes. While I would like to consider myself of higher moral ground than that, I’m also just not the daring sort. So i cant imagine i’d ever be put in prison for murder, rape, theft, etc. However, last night i’m walking around the house in the dark, to my open garage with some pottery to put back in storage and I had a fleeting goofy thought, “If I see someone leaving my garage with an arm load of stuff what am I going to do?” Instantly my reaction was “i’ll knock them with this clay pot”. It wasnt till some minutes later that i realized, i’d go to jail for doing that! Especially if i seriously wounded him. The thought crossed my mind last night that I could end up getting raped in prison for hitting someone in the head with a clay pot protecting my “stuff”. There is something highly immoral about that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dude, wake up! Prisoners are in prison. You don’t want to be there! They do stupid, idiotic, inhumane things. That is why they are there. Put the doobie down and step back and realize you have some issues if you are so concerned about stupid people doing stupid things! Are you considering a little stint in the slamma? Why are you so concerned? Did you know that in China, if you have a Bible (yes, a Bible-a book) openly in public, you could be locked up for your entire life? I wonder what would happen in China…in their prison…I am sure it is a cakewalk in THEIR prison though-for life!!!
    No corruption or communism in China surely!
    You have some issues. You live in the greatest country in the world and you post (and spend your valuable moments) about people that have chosen to made stupid decisions-victims of their own demise. They don’t deserve anymore press-
    I comment this once to make you realize you need to change your perspective and you have a higher calling. 🙂

  4. ThisIsMe says:

    Rape in prison is wrong, and it is the responsibility of the institutions in which it takes place to make it completely impossible to perpetrate. If they do not, then they are committing a crime themselves, and whether they end up paying for it though the so-called “justice” system or not, they will definitely pay for it on a grander scale — the cosmic scale. That is inevitable.

    That being said, it’s obvious that it will never be completely eradicated from prisons because the prison officials either don’t care, or they actually enjoy it. It’s a well-known fact that prison guards, the dirty bastards, also rape prisoners — just think about the type of sick consciousness that would drive an individual to actively seek out such a job. So why not at least be honest about it and acknowledge publicly the fact that prison rape is sanctioned by the prison officials?

    Once it’s acknowledged, the prison officials could actually film it and sell the DVD’s to the general public for a huge profit. This could fund the building of new prisons, as well as new, large-scale campaigns for arresting and convicting more non-violent “offenders” (meaning drug users and dealers), to be used as the “bitches” for future prison rape films. Such intensely dramatic and sexual DVD’s could even produce enough funds to create new laws for the books that would make it easy to convict more and more non-violent citizens, to flesh out the newly built prisons, providing prettier and prettier rape victims for the DVD’s.

    Eventually, there would be so many prisons in this country that it would be difficult to walk down the street without passing by one or two of them. They might not be pretty, but hey, at least the streets would be safe!