The acceptance of prison rape

Dear Readers,

If you missed my last blog post you can check it out here. For my last weekly post I want to discuss the rape culture in prisons and the actions or as some would say, lack of actions that have taken thus far.

In 1996 two prison-related phenomena was brought to light. The first was the acceptance of laws allowing juveniles to be sent to adult prisons for non-violent crimes. The second was prison rape. This started circulating after 17-year-old Rodney Hulin Jr. used his bed sheets as noose to hang himself after being raped, beaten, and forced to perform oral sex within three days of his sentence.   Studies show that prisoners under 18 in adult prisons report being sexually attacked five times more than those detained in juvenile institutions.

Something to consider: North Carolina automatically tries 16-year-olds and up as adults.

In 2003 congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), to protect inmates from sexual assault.  PREA cannot be considered a complete failure, but close to it.  Since the implementation of PREA, cases of in-prison rape have continued. In 2011 it was estimated by the federal government that nearly 200,000 people were sexually abused in American detention facilities.   Eight years after implementing the zero-tolerance law and yet rape elimination in prisons is nowhere near being achieved…

All states were required to have either complied or promise to comply with PREA by May of 2014 or else they would be penalized with a loss of 5% of their federal finding for the prison. It has come to my attention that more states have agreed to comply not to protect the wellbeing of their inmates but rather to save their funding.

A particular case of prison rape that caught my eye was one reported by The Marshall Project, which delves into one inmates experience and the evolution of PREA. At the time, 17-year-old John Doe (who chose to stay anonymous to protect his identity) was sentenced to an adult prison where he was raped countless times and received no intervention by prison guards regardless of the fact that their station was located at the end of his hall. The article states:

“He assumed the staff knew what was happening. From their station at the end of the hall, the officers would see men going in and out of his cell and they would not intervene. The rapists would put a towel over the cell door’s window, which was not allowed but must have been noticed by officers making their rounds. John says some of the officers would even make jokes, calling him a ‘fag,’ a ‘girl,’ and a ‘bust-down.’”

In wasn’t until John couldn’t take it anymore and asked to be relocated, that the guards assigned him to a room closer to the guard stand.

What does that say about our prison systems?


3 thoughts on “The acceptance of prison rape”

  1. Hi! (sorry for the delayed comment) ….
    I thought this was a great post and very well constructed! I found it easy to read (regardless of the fact that I was reading about rape in prisons). While I cannot necessarily agree with or know the reasons behind every inmate who experiences ANY form of rape while in prison, the fact is-they’re still human beings and should be protected even when incarcerated.

    Everyone hears that sexual assaults occur in prison but I never knew it was to this extent. This is very disheartening-especially when you consider that not all prison sentences are legit-and often imprison innocent people.

    -Girl 3


    1. Hey! Thanks for commenting! I’m really glad you liked my post; it gives me confidence that I’m at least doing this topic some justice. And I agree with you I can neither agree nor know the reasons behind every prisoners experience but that’s not the point. The point is that every prisoner deserves basic human rights. And the widely accepted culture of prison rape is inhumane. What gets me is that yes, everyone does here about sexual assault in prison and yet it’s an ignored topic. What’s even worse is that it’s accepted and expected. It’s become so accepted that people make jokes about “not dropping the soap”. How is that ok? In my opinion, it’s not and honestly I probably wouldn’t have realized that until after spending this much time researching the topic. I think what we, as a society, need is education if we ever expect to see successful prison reform.


  2. Thank you for posting, this was a very insightful and well backed up post. It is absolutely heartbreaking and infuriating that this country can pose heavy child pornography charges among high school sweethearts with a righteous fury all the while children in prison are being subjected to such horrors. The reasons for ignoring this are not enough, just because a person goes to prison does not mean this can be overlooked in the slightest. While it is a common stereotype that prison rape occurs (as seen on tv), hearing actual statistics and that underage individuals are more easily targeted is jarring at the very least and is something that deserves more attention.


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