Dale Mills, UNITED STATES: Prison Rape Law Enacted, Green Left Weekly (Australia), October 15, 2003.
On September 4, US President George Bush
signed into law the Prison Rape Elimination Act. While the law does little
more than provide funding for research and some counselling, it is at
least a belated recognition that the massive US prison system is a key
site of sexual assault.
"The passage of this law is a major milestone, finally bringing prisoner
rape out of the shadows'', said Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop
Prisoner Rape (SPR), a national human rights organisation that has worked
on the issue for more than two decades.
One in 10 US male prison inmates report some sort of forced sexual
encounter. With female prisoners, the figures range from 7% to 27%, with
prison guards being the main attackers. Young people locked up with adults
are five times more likely to be raped, and are seven times more likely to
There are now more than 2 million people in prison across the US. A black
man is more likely to serve time in prison than to spend his time in
college or university. Additionally, the US has nearly 200,000 people in
immigration detention; 5000 of them are unaccompanied children.
Often, prison rape is deadly. The "unajudicated death sentence" is imposed
because HIV rates are 5-10 times higher in prison than outside.
The US prison industry is worth US$50 billion to private companies which
are contracted by federal and state governments to run prisons. This
amount of money is used to create prisons in southern US towns where
unemployment is high. The locals are glad of the work.
Prisoners are used to build roads, do commercial laundry, and work in
factories built inside the prisons. They are paid a pittance. The profits
are enormous. One prison firm, Wakenhut, is among the top five companies
on the US stock markets.