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.