Fresh of his smaller office tantrum, State Rep Todd Spitzer calls out Register editorial writer Steve Greenhut for his definition of “pro-criminal” and provides a laundry list of bills turned down by the Democratic majority as evidence of being “pro-criminal.”
As Mr. Greenhut correctly notes, Democrats are not pro-criminal.Ã‚Â Reasons for the bills Spitzer lists failing can vary.Ã‚Â
The one bill he cites that jumps out at me was this: AB1677 (Koretz) required the state to provide condoms to prison inmates, even though sex in prison is a felony, and it would have made it easier for inmates to smuggle drugs.
I imagine prison rape is also a felony, but what exactly is Spitzer doing about stopping that?Ã‚Â In addition, the higher rates of AIDs and HIV infection among the prison population is astronomical compared to the general public.Ã‚Â The state has to pay for the cost of treating prisoners with HIV or AIDs, so wouldn’t distributing condoms as a means of STD protection make more sense?
Here’s a fact sheet from SPR.org (Stop Prison Rape).
The Basics on Rape Behind Bars
Prisoner rape is a problem that…affects large numbers of men, women, and youth.A recent study of prisons in four Midwestern states found that approximately one in five male inmates reported a pressured or forced sex incident while incarcerated. About one in ten male inmates reported that that they had been raped. 1A recent study of prisons in four Midwestern states found that approximately one in five male inmates reported a pressured or forced sex incident while incarcerated. About one in ten male inmates reported that that they had been raped.Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff members, vary greatly among institutions. In one facility, 27 percent of women reported a pressured or forced sex incident, while in another facility, seven percent of women reported sexual abuse.2
A recent study of prisons in four Midwestern states found that approximately one in five male inmates reported a pressured or forced sex incident while incarcerated. About one in ten male inmates reported that that they had been raped.Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff members, vary greatly among institutions. In one facility, 27 percent of women reported a pressured or forced sex incident, while in another facility, seven percent of women reported sexual abuse.Youth in detention are also extremely vulnerable to abuse. Research has shown that juveniles incarcerated with adults are five times more likely to report being victims of sexual assault than youth in juvenile facilities,3 and the suicide rate of juveniles in adult jails is 7.7 times higher than that of juvenile detention centers. As states try growing numbers of juveniles as adults, the risk of sexual abuse increases.
Overcrowding and insufficient staffing are key contributors to prisoner rape, and recent changes in criminal justice policy have exacerbated the problem by swelling prison and jail populations beyond capacity. More than 2 million people are now serving time in the United States,4 and millions more pass through the criminal justice system every year. In 1998, for example, 11.5 million inmates were released from jails and prisons.5 One out of every 140 people in the United States is now behind bars, the highest rate of any nation.
The United States also holds approximately 180,000 to 200,000 people per year in immigration detention.6 Ã‚Â Of those detained every year, 5,000 are unaccompanied children.7 These individuals, many of whom have not been charged with any crime,8 are vulnerable to sexual abuse from detention officers and fellow detainees.
…causes serious physical and psychological harm.Following an incident of rape, victims may experience vaginal or rectal bleeding, soreness and bruising (and much worse in the case of violent attacks), insomnia, nausea, shock, disbelief, withdrawal, anger, shame, guilt, and humiliation. Long term consequences may include post traumatic stress disorder, rape trauma syndrome, ongoing fear, nightmares, flashbacks, self-hatred, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide.9Rates of HIV are five to ten times as high inside of prison as outside,10 making forced sex – where prevention methods are virtually nonexistent – a deadly proposition. Though reliable statistics are unavailable, inmates have contracted HIV through prisoner rape, a phenomenon that has been described as “an un-adjudicated death sentence.” Sexual assault behind bars can also spread other sexually transmissible diseases, such as hepatitis A and B, syphilis, and gonorrhea.11 Ã‚Â In addition to the possibility of disease exposure that both male and female rape victims experience, female inmates have been impregnated as a result of staff sexual misconduct. Some of these women have then been further subjected to inappropriate segregation and denial of adequate healthcare services.12
Ultimately, 95 percent of all inmates are eventually released.13Ã‚Â Upon release, male prisoner rape survivors may bring with them emotional scars and learned violent behavior that continue the cycle of harm. Feelings of rage can be suppressed until release, when survivors may engage in violent, antisocial behavior and the aggressive assertion of their masculinity, including the commission of rape on others.
Many survivors of prisoner rape blame themselves. Male survivors often feel that they have been stripped of their “manhood.” The tendency of perpetrators to feminize their victims and the general use of misleading terms such as “homosexual rape” cause many heterosexual men to feel that their sexuality has been compromised. Gay survivors may blame their sexual orientation for the rape.
…targets the vulnerable. Prisoner rape victims are typically among the most vulnerable members of the population in custody. Male victims are often young, nonviolent, first-time offenders who are small, weak, shy, gay or effeminate, and inexperienced in the ways of prison life.14 Studies suggest that a typical male prison rapist chooses a victim on the basis of “the weakness and inability of the victim to defend himself.”15Believing they have no choice, some male prisoners consent to sexual acts to avoid violence. For others, gang rape and other brutal assaults have left them beaten, bloodied, and in rare cases, dead. Often, those who live through the experience are marked as targets for further attacks, eventually forcing victims to accept long term sexual enslavement in order to survive. Treated like the perpetrator’s property, the victim may be forced into servitude that includes prostitution arrangements with other male prisoners.16Among women behind bars, young and mentally ill inmates and first-time offenders are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault by male staff.17 Male custodial officials have vaginally, anally, and orally raped female prisoners and have abused their authority by exchanging goods and privileges for sex. Male corrections officers are often allowed to watch female inmates when they are dressing, showering, or using the toilet, and some regularly engage in verbal degradation and harassment of women prisoners. Women also report groping and other sexual abuse by male staff during pat frisks and searches.18
…violates international, U.S., and state laws. Prisoner rape is a violation of international human rights law that meets the definition of torture: the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering for an illicit purpose and committed, consented, or acquiesced to by public officials. The rape of persons in detention has been classified as torture by several international bodies. In addition, the U.S. has ratified treaties that prohibit torture, slavery, and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment.19The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prisoner rape is a violation of the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.20All fifty states and the District of Columbia criminalize rape and sexual assault, and all but four states have statutes addressing the sexual abuse of inmates by prison staff.21
…but has been allowed to continue.In short, the response to prisoner rape has been indifferent and irresponsible. Reporting procedures, where they exist, are often ineffectual, and complaints by prisoners about sexual assault are routinely ignored by prison staff and government authorities.22Prisoner rape occurs most easily when no one is around to see or hear, particularly at night and in hidden areas that are difficult to monitor.23 Inmates complain about a lack of vigilance, even reporting that screams for help have gone unanswered.Punishment for prisoner rape is rare.24 Few public prosecutors concern themselves with crimes against inmates, and instead leave such problems to the discretion of prison authorities. As a result, perpetrators of prisoner rape seldom face charges. Staff members who sexually abuse inmates are rarely held accountable, facing only light administrative sanctions, if any. In fact, some female inmates have reported retaliation from corrections officers against whom reports of sexual misconduct have been lodged.
Prisoner rape has been used in some cases as a tool to punish inmates for misbehavior. Male inmates have testified that they were forced into cells with known sexual predators as a form of punishment for unrelated misconduct.25
Potential victims of prisoner rape are routinely separated from the rest of the prison population in administrative segregation (similar to solitary confinement) as a putative solution to prisoner rape. Such isolation is extremely difficult to endure, discourages reports of abuse, and effectively punishes victims.
Prisoner rape also costs taxpayers dearly in the form of higher rates of recidivism and re-incarceration, increased violence, higher rates of substance abuse, lawsuits brought by victims, mental health services, and medical care, including treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.26 Yet these high costs have failed to inspire most facilities to implement even the most basic measures to address the problem.
I remember State Rep Chuck DeVore once commenting online (Red County blog?) that the primary purpose of prison was punishment.Ã‚Â I’m sure Spitzer feels that same way.Ã‚Â I’d like to believe that peple who go to jail, show remorse for their crime and work hard at rehabilitation be given every chance to atone for their mistakes by being a productive member of society.Ã‚Â
I remember State Rep Chuck DeVore once commenting online (Red County blog?) that the primary purpose of prison was punishment.Ã‚Â I’m sure Spitzer feels that same way.Ã‚Â I’d like to believe that peple who go to jail, show remorse for their crime and work hard at rehabilitation be given every chance to atone for their mistakes by being a productive member of society.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â