Women's Rights: What Happens In Prison? , Blisstree, May 12, 2010

Everyone knows prison isn’t the nicest place in the world – we’ve all caught a minute or two of Lockdown on MSNBC or Locked Up Abroad on NatGeo. One would hope that those governing the prisons would be principled individuals; after all, inmates are in prison for committing a crime, and you’d think the guards would set an example. If that sounds a little too Hollywood, it is. According to a recent Mother Jones article, inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women who complained of abuse by guards were thrown into the hole (solitary confinement). As Just Detention International (formerly Stop Prisoner Rape) points out, the process of banishing prisoners to solitary confinement after reporting an incident discourages them from reporting abuse – and encourages unethical staff behavior.

Michelle Ortiz, who was a prisoner at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in 1996, was raped by a guard after she had already complained once about his misconduct. Ortiz was put in solitary confinement after reporting the guard’s behavior. Eventually, Ortiz was awarded $625,000 in damages, but the guards in question appealed the verdict and won. They claimed that they had “qualified immunity that shielded them from paying damages.”

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has issued guidelines for new national standards to combat prison abuse. Attorney General Eric Holder has until June to review the standards and turn them into federal regulation. A 60-day period of public comment just ended on May 10, but you can donate to help fight prison abuse at Just Detention International.

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