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