Fabius Maximus, Being a third world nation is a state of mind, as we will learn, Fabius Maximus, March 19, 2011

Summary: Being a Third World nation is largely a state of mind. The distinguishing characteristic of a First World Nation (a civilized society) is that the people (leaders and citizens) respect their laws. That’s disappearing in America. Here we look at one small aspect of that: how we treat our prisoners. Links to the vast literature describing this shame appear at the end. You, of course, don’t care about this symptom -- but the underlying malady will touch you and your descendents.

Prison rape. It’s become a joke, an accepted part of the American criminal justice system. Tangible evidence of our abandonment of law and regression to third world standards of government. Fortunately for civilization, there are other nations that will carry the torch that we’ve thrown in the mud.

I would love to personally escort Ken Lay to an eight-by-ten cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, quote, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey.’
-- Bill Lockyer, Attorney General of California, May 2001

For a more detailed picture, see “Prison Rape and the Government", David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow, New York Review of Books, 24 March 2011 -- Excerpt:
According to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the Department of Justice, there were only 7,444 official allegations of sexual abuse in detention in 2008, and of those, only 931 were substantiated. These are absurdly low figures. But perhaps more shocking is that even when authorities confirmed that corrections staff had sexually abused inmates in their care, only 42 percent of those officers had their cases referred to prosecution; only 23 percent were arrested, and only 3 percent charged, indicted, or convicted. Fifteen percent were actually allowed to keep their jobs.

How many people are really victimized every year? Recent BJS studies using a “snapshot” technique have found that, of those incarcerated on the days the surveys were administered, about 90,000 had been abused in the previous year, but as we have argued previously,2 those numbers were also misleadingly low. Finally, in January, the Justice Department published its first plausible estimates. In 2008, it now says, more than 216,600 people were sexually abused in prisons and jails and, in the case of at least 17,100 of them, in juvenile detention. Overall, that’s almost six hundred people a day -- twenty-five an hour.

...All the numbers we have cited count people who were abused, not instances of abuse. ...Between half and two thirds of those who claim sexual abuse in adult facilities say it happened more than once; previous BJS studies suggest that victims endure an average of three to five attacks each per year.

...The notion that rape is inevitable in our prisons is, as the Justice Department says, “not only incorrect but incompatible with American values.” After all, the government has extraordinary control over the lives of people whom it locks up and keeps under surveillance every hour of every day. Preventing sexual abuse in detention is primarily a matter of management. The policies needed are, for the most part, straightforward...Well-run prisons have adopted such policies already, and their rates of sexual assault are dramatically lower than the national average. But for too long, too many facilities have failed to take these basic measures.

This need not be. American can be so much more, if we but have the will to make it so. It’s our choice.

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