JDI IN THE NEWS - 2003

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, CNN, October 8, 2003.

COOPER: Well, we continue now with our week-long look at "Sex, Violence and Favors: Life Behind Bars." Tonight, the controversial subject of rape in prison. It is part of an extremely violent culture behind bars. Rape is a tool of power, where the strong victimize the weak. And in a civil case going on right now in California, one prisoner says the corrections officers didn't stop him from becoming prey.

Here's CNN's Kris Osborn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRIS OSBORN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eddie Dillard says it happened behind this wall in 1993 in the notorious supermax prison of Corcoran. He accuses four corrections officers of intentionally allowing him to be raped by placing him in a cell with a convicted murderer, nicknamed by cell mates "The Booty Bandit."

The department of corrections said Dillard's attacker admitted the rape. The officers denied the charges and were cleared in criminal court of aiding and abetting sodomy. Dillard is now hoping to win civil damages. But he's just one of thousands of prisoners who have been raped. The FBI recently put it at 12,000 prison rapes a year. That's more than the reported forcible rapes in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, San Diego, and Phoenix combined.

ANDREW LICHTENSTEIN, PHOTOGRAPHER OF PRISON LIFE: Rape is not so much sexual as it is power. Let's say that rape is the ultimate expression of one individual's power or one group's power over another.

OSBORN: Last month, President Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination act to help fight the problem. A key reason for the interest, disease. The Centers for Disease Control says the AIDS infection rate for state and federal prisoners is nearly six times that of the rest of the population.

DEVON BROWN, COMMISSIONER, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: The problem is, the occurrence in the correctional environment spreads diseases. It spreads all forms of abuse. And we must control it.

OSBORN: But controlling prison rape has proved difficult in the past. And there are no clear signs that it can be done.

Kris Osborn, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, going to prison, coming out with a fatal disease, this is not some hypothetical horror story.

Keith DeBlasio went to prison in 1994 for nonviolent crimes. He says he was raped some 30 times. He is now HIV-positive. DeBlasio helped draft the Prison Rape Elimination Act that Kris Osborn just mentioned. He joins us now from Washington.

Keith, thanks very much for being with us.

You say you were raped some 30 times by one particular inmate. Did guards know about it? Why was nothing done to stop it?

KEITH DEBLASIO, VICTIM OF PRISON RAPE: Well, I was originally transferred from a federal correctional institution in Morgantown, West Virginia, which is a low-security -- a minimum-security institution with no fence. I was transferred because I did have the tendency to put a lot of paperwork on administration staff for things that were...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sorry for interrupting.

But, when you got to this new facility and this prisoner basically got you in their sights and you say raped you some 30 times, did the guards know about it? Why did no one try to do anything?

DEBLASIO: Well, I believe officers knew about it. I reported incidents of both the rape, the fear prior to him being put in my unit that I was housed in, to the SIS lieutenant, case managers, unit managers, and other prison staff.

COOPER: And you were afraid, really, to come forward. This person was a member of a gang, you said, and you feared retaliation?

DEBLASIO: Yes.

This individual was a member of the Vice Lords. And the original attacks took place with members of the gang there, present outside of the area where we were at. And, also, I had witnessed him with other gang members actually beat another individual to actually mutilating his face.

COOPER: You work now as an advocate, trying to reform the prison system. Do prison officials, do guards take rape of prisoners seriously enough, in your opinion?

DEBLASIO: I don't believe they do, in many cases.

Unfortunately, Stop Prisoner Rape, an organization based out of California, has come up with a university study that they've published on their Web site that show as many as one in 10 men being raped while they are in prison and something like 27 percent of women in one institution in the Midwest that were actually forcible rape.

COOPER: And I know, with all the overcrowding of prisons, a lot of facilities just really overcrowded, and also young people housed with adults. A lot of this just continues to go on.

Keith DeBlasio, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

DEBLASIO: OK. Thank you.