U.S. Issues Far-Reaching Rules to Stem Prison Rape
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday issued the first comprehensive federal rules aimed at “zero tolerance” for sexual assaults against inmates in prisons, jails and other houses of detention.
The regulations, issued after years of discussions among officials and prisoner advocacy groups, address a problem that a new government study finds may afflict one out of every 10 prisoners, more than twice as many as suggested by an earlier survey.
Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and the rules to carry it out are the first to address federal, state and local prisons and jails, including institutions holding juveniles.
The standards are binding on federal prisons, and states that do not comply could lose 5 percent of their federal financing.
Jamie Fellner, an expert on the subject with Human Rights Watch, said the costs would not be very high for any single facility, except perhaps those where very little has been done to address the problem.
“If states don’t want to pay the costs, then they have to reduce their prison populations,” she said. “If you are going to put them in prison, you have to keep them safe.”
The private prison industry in the United States is an evil blood-sucking menace. As long as it is profitable and growing — and it is — the nation’s jails will be kept chock full in a country that already has the largest prison population in the world, with no fewer social problems or less criminality to show for it. Innocent people are jailed and killed, and the lives of millions of non-violent low-level drug offenders are recklessly ruined. But all of that is a subject for another post.
The rape of jailed inmates is unconscionable. It does not matter what they may have done. It is a sick mind that holds that rape is an appropriate punishment — for anything. Because that view is a cultural problem more than anything else, I was glad to see this:
The standards focus on prevention, supervision and changing the prison culture, not on setting numerical standards for results.
“In popular culture,” said a summary of the rules issued on Thursday, “prison rape is often the subject of jokes; in public discourse, it has been at times dismissed by some as an inevitable — or even deserved — consequence of criminality. But sexual abuse is never a laughing matter, nor is it punishment for a crime. Rather, it is a crime, and it is no more tolerable when its victims have committed crimes of their own.”
I urge everyone to read “Rape Culture 101” at Shakesville for a sense of the enormity of the problem, and not just in prisons. Here are just a few points:
Rape culture is a militarized culture and “the natural product of all wars, everywhere, at all times, in all forms.”
Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is encouraging men to use the language of rape to establish dominance over one another (“I’ll make you my bitch”). Rape culture is making rape a ubiquitous part of male-exclusive bonding. Rape culture is ignoring the cavernous need for men’s prison reform in part because the threat of being raped in prison is considered an acceptable deterrent to committing crime, and the threat only works if actual men are actually being raped.
(See also: this recent post at Manboobz to crush any remaining hope for humanity you may still have this morning.) Today’s news is only a small step of course, but it is a step in the right direction nonetheless.