That Other Rape Crisis

by Dish Staff

Rape on college campuses is undoubtedly a real and serious problem, but as Michael Brendan Dougherty reminds us, it pales in comparison to rape in prisons, where victims get no publicity, no sympathy, and no justice. Hell, we even joke about it, even in children’s cartoons (as seen above):

In prison, men may become the victim of repeated gang rapes. Prisoners can be locked into cells with the men who prey on them. Some live under the constant threat of sexual assault for decades. Their efforts to report their rape are ignored or even punished, both by prison personnel and an inmate culture that destroys “snitches.” The threat of rape is so pervasive it causes some inmates to “consent” to sex with certain prisoners or officers as a way of avoiding rape by others.

Acceptance of prison rape is a stinking corruption. No conception of justice can include plunging criminals into an anarchic world of sexual terror. And obviously it thwarts any possibility of a rehabilitative justice that aims to restore criminals to lawful society. Inmates are not improved or better integrated into society through physical and psychological torture. Prison rape also vitiates any sense of retributive justice, since rape is not a proper punishment for a crime. Allowing prison rape is just a vindictive horror, and when accepted under the name of punishment makes criminals the victims of justice.

Sadly, some Senators are looking to defang the Prison Rape Elimination Act:

PREA required states to certify by May of 2014 that they were in compliance with the standards, or promise that they would eventually comply. States that refuse to do either can be penalized with a loss of five percent of their federal funding for prison-related purposes. But a proposal that originated in the Senate Judiciary Committee would almost completely eliminate financial penalties for states that defy the rape prevention law. The proposal, written by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas — the most vocally defiant state — was agreed on by the committee in an after-midnight session in September and was attached to an unrelated bill.

The bill carrying the PREA amendment failed to pass, but members of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, a federal body that spent years developing the PREA standards, say efforts are already underway to reintroduce the amendment during the next legislative session.

A reader’s story of prison rape posted here. Update from another:

Thanks for posting that piece on prison rape.  I thought you might be interested in the following scene from Rectify, a TV drama about a death row prisoner who is exonerated after nearly two decades in jail.  It features the main character, Daniel, talking to his stepbrother, Ted, about his experience of being raped in prison.  This scene conveys a sense of visceral agony that reports and columns cannot and it helped me realize the extent to which prison rape is a silent crisis:

For a riveting memoir on the subject, check out Fish by T.J. Parsell, who was gang-raped upon entering prison at the age of 17.