JDI IN THE NEWS - 2010

JayinPortland, Prison Rape In America, DailyKos.com Blog, August 30, 2010

I wasn't an angel growing up. I stole a thing or two, I sold a "drug" or two, and oh man did I smoke my share of same. But I was far from a 'violent criminal'. Indeed, I never physically hurt anybody.

I got caught for something once, along with two friends, and spent a day in a holding cell while a Montclair, New Jersey police officer entertained us with not-quite-joyous (yet very explicitly detailed) stories of "what happens to kids like us down in Rahway", after which he took time out to punch our black friend in the face repeatedly for "looking at him like that".

A new DOJ report (pdf) makes quite clear (pdf) that his threats from fifteen years ago are still unfortunately all too real, and not just for skinny little white kids from Newark.

JayinPortland's diary :

An estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months. Nationwide, these percentages suggest that approximately 88,500 adults held in prisons and jails at the time of the survey had been sexually victimized.

And these numbers are certainly understated. See below...

Among all state and federal inmates, 2.1% (or an estimated 30,100 prisoners) reported an incident involving another inmate, and 2.8% (41,200) reported an incident involving facility staff. Some prisoners (0.5%) reported sexual victimization by both another inmate and facility staff.

About 1.5% of jail inmates (11,600) reported an incident with another inmate, and 2.0% (15,800) reported an incident with staff. Approximately 0.4% of jail inmates (3,400) reported being sexually victimized by both other inmates and staff.

My best friend from childhood ended up serving a long sentence in a juvenile detention facility. I didn't.

He was raped (more than once). I wasn't.

He had a hell of a time finding good work once he got out. I didn't.

He hung himself in his grandmother's basement almost ten years ago, days shy of his 21st birthday.

Eight male prisons, 2 female prisons, and 6 jails were identified as having high rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization.

These were -

Prisons: Hughes Unit (TX), Allred Unit (TX), Pontiac Corr. Ctr. (IL), Plainfield Corr. Fac. (IN), Michael Unit (TX), Maine State Prison - Warren (ME), California Med. Fac. (CA), Pleasant Valley State Prison (CA), Taycheedah Corr. Inst. (WI) and Fluvanna Corr. Ctr. (VA)

Jails: Orleans Parish - South White Street Jail (LA), Madison Co. Det. Fac. (AL), Miami-Dade Co. - Pre-trial Det. Ctr. (FL), Houston Co. Jail (AL), Jefferson Co. Jail (MO) and Madison Co. Det. Ctr. (IN)

Four male prisons, 2 female prisons, and 5 jails were identified as having high rates of staff sexual misconduct.

These were -

Prisons: Crossroads Corr. Fac. (MO), Attica Corr. Fac. (NY), Elmira Corr. Fac. (NY), Ferguson Unit (TX), Bayview Corr. Fac. (NY) and Fluvanna Corr. Ctr. (VA) (again)

Jails: Caroline Co. Jail (MD), Eastern Shore Regional Jail (VA), Clallam Co. Corr. Fac. (WA), Orleans Co. Jail (NY), Cook Co. Jail - Division 6 (IL)

The New York Review of Books blogs on this -

A new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) provides grim reaffirmation of something we already knew: sexual violence is epidemic within our country’s prisons and jails. According to the report, 64,500 of the inmates who were in a state or federal prison on the day the latest BJS survey was administered had been sexually abused at their current facility within the previous year, as had 24,000 of those who were in a county jail that day—a total of 88,500 people.

In fact, as we’ve explained before, the true national total is much higher. The BJS numbers don’t include thousands who we know are sexually abused in juvenile detention and other kinds of corrections facilities every year, nor do they account for the constant turnover among jailed detainees. Stays in jail are typically short, and several times as many people pass through jail in a year as are held there on any given day. Overall, we can confidently say that well over 100,000 people are sexually abused in American detention facilities every year.

Prison rape isn't funny. And the number on juveniles is one in eight. And -

Marilyn Shirley clutched a typewritten speech in trembling hands as she told how a senior officer at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas secluded her, threw her against a wall, raped and sodomized her a decade ago. She was in prison on drug charges.

"The more I begged and pleaded for him to stop the more violent he became," Shirley said, crying. She takes five pills a day to help her cope.

She said the words her attacker whispered in her ear continue to haunt her: "Do you think you're the only one?"

Prison rape isn't funny.

As appalling as this figure is, mere numbers can obscure what is at issue here. So consider the case of Scott Howard. Scott was a gay, non-violent, first-time inmate in a Colorado prison when he was targeted by members of the “2-11 crew,” a white supremacist gang with over 1,000 members in prisons throughout the state. For two years he was forced into prostitution by the gang’s leaders, repeatedly raped and made to perform oral sex. Even after he told prison staff that he was being raped and needed protection from the gang, Scott was told that nothing could be done unless he named his abusers—even though they had threatened to kill him if he did. Because Scott is openly gay, some officials blamed him for the attacks, saying that as a homosexual he should expect to be targeted by one gang or another. And by his account, even those officers who were not hostile didn’t know how to respond to his reports, because appropriate procedures were not in place. They failed to take even the most basic measures to protect him.

Ultimately, despite his fear, Scott did identify some of the gang members who had raped him. Not only did the prison authorities again fail to respond, they later put Scott in a holding cell with one of his previous assailants on the day he was to be released from state custody. Again, he was beaten and forced to perform oral sex. Scott had a civil lawsuit settled in his favor recently, winning financial damages and seventeen policy changes that will now become mandatory in the Colorado prison system. Otherwise, however, nothing about his story is unusual.

Prison rape isn't funny. Remember, this man may one day be your neighbor, as something like 98% of American prisoners are eventually released back into society.

The Washington Department of Corrections estimates that the cost of providing mental health treatment for victims of prisoner rape or sexual assault—which is different from immediate medical care—is approximately $9,700 per victim. Neither category of care includes treatment for HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections, which are of course spread by prisoner rape and also impose great costs on prison health services. Making our prisons and jails safer should have a positive effect generally on the mental health problems that are endemic there. And reducing prisoner rape would also lower the number of suicides and unwanted pregnancies in our prison systems.

Going in for possession of a little bit of coke, and coming out with a death sentence?

In mid-August a Department spokesman said that the Attorney General would send a proposed rule on the standards to the White House Office of Management and Budgets “in the fall.” Even then, however, it will take months for another layer of review. If well over 100,000 inmates are sexually abused every year, that is something like 300 every day, or even more. Since Attorney General Holder said that change needed to come “yesterday”—five months ago now—more than 40,000 people have been sexually abused in detention. Good corrections officers are doing what they can, but they are desperate for the support that binding national standards would give them. It is time for Mr. Holder to act.



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