|From Stop Prisoner Rape (now Just Detention)|
Rape in US prisons, jails and other detention facilities is a serious problem, and a disgrace to our country.
Men’s Rights Activists often complain, quite justifiably, about prison rape jokes. Typically, they attribute the double standard towards prison rape jokes as an indication that, as one MRA put it in a recent discussion, “nobody gives a shit about men.” As I’ve pointed out, this explanation doesn’t take us very far, given that women are also raped in prison, and that people make jokes about that too. (Indeed, there is an entire genre of “women in prison” exploitation films that sexualizes this abuse.)
More to the point, most MRAs don’t seem terribly interested in actually attempting to do much about prison rape beyond complaining about obnoxious rape jokes or making rhetorical points about the “disposability” of men. (See below for the few examples of MR blogs I could find that have addressed the issue as more than a bullet point in a laundry list of complaints; I’ve found much more serious discussion of prison rape on feminist blogs.) Anyone who is interested in doing something about it should consider getting in touch with Just Detention, a human rights advocacy group working to stop sexual abuse in detention facilities.
Some basic information about prison rape. I’ve bolded the crucial information.
Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09, by Allen J. Beck, Ph.D., Paige M. Harrison
An estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months. Nationwide, these percentages suggest that approximately 88,500 adults held in prisons and jails at the time of the survey had been sexually victimized.
Female inmates in prison (4.7%) or jail (3.1%) were more than twice as likely as male inmates in prison (1.9%) or jail (1.3%) to report experiencing inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization. … Most victims of staff sexual misconduct were males; most perpetrators were females.
Note: Men make up the overwhelming majority of rape victims in prison — 90 percent — largely because the overwhelming majority of inmates are male. While the number of men raped in prison is appalling, I would like to clear up one Men’s Rights Myth: that the number of men raped inside prison is greater than the number of women raped outside of prison. This is simply false; the numbers aren’t even close: again, while the estimate of the total number of people (male and female) currently being held in prison who have been raped there in the past year is 88,500, estimates of the total number of those raped per year (outside of prison) range from about 200,000 to more than a million (the real number is probably closer to the latter); estimates suggest that anywhere from 86% to 94% of rape victims are female, and that males may make up to 99% of the perpetrators. See here (doc format) for a look at various estimates, and here (pdf) for more details from a large scale survey. As is the case with rapes in general, the vast majority of prison rapes go unreported.
EDITED TO ADD: The information in the previous paragraph is outdated. The Department of Justice has revised upwards its estimate of the number of prisoners (male and female) who are sexually assaulted each year to 216,000. Which means that considerably more men are raped per year than previously thought. There is still no clean and direct way to directly compare rapes of men and women, in prison and out, because the various studies out there use different methodologies and different definitions of sexual assault. Stephanie Zvan drills into the numbers in great detail here; anyone seriously interested in this issue should read her post carefully.
Information from Just Detention:
Sexual abuse behind bars is a widespread human rights crisis in prisons and jails across the US. Aaccording to the best available research, 20 percent of inmates in men’s prisons are sexually abused at some point during their incarceration. The rate for women’s facilities varies dramatically from one prison to another, with one in four inmates being victimized at the worst institutions.
In a 2007 survey of prisoners across the country, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that 4.5 percent (or 60,500) of the more than 1.3 million inmates held in federal and state prisons had been sexually abused in the previous year alone. A BJS survey in county jails was just as troubling; nearly 25,000 jail detainees reported having been sexually abused in the past six months.
Unfortunately, the data provided by the still represent only a fraction of the true number of detainees who are victimized, especially of those held in county jails. The number of admissions to local jails over the course of a year is approximately 17 times higher than the nation’s jail population … .
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer inmates are the chief target of sexual abuse in prison
Sexual abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) inmates constitutes one of the most rampant and ignored human rights violations in the US today. In a 2007 academic study, funded by the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation and conducted at six California men’s prisons, 67 percent of inmates who identified as LGBTQ reported having been sexually assaulted by another inmate during their incarceration, a rate that was 15 times higher than for the inmate population overall.
Sexual Abuse and STDs:
Sexual violence in detention spreads disease. Prisoner rape victims are highly vulnerable to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. … In 2004, the HIV prevalence rate inside US prisons was more than four times higher than in society overall. Hepatitis C rates are 8 to 20 times higher in prisons than on the outside … The rates of infection for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are likewise significantly higher among inmates than in the population at-large.
Human Rights Watch Report: No Escape, Human Rights Watch, 2001.
Prison Rape: A Critical Review of the Literature, National Institute of Justice, 2004.
Cindy Struckman-Johnson and David Struckman-Johnson, Comparison of Sexual Coercion Experiences Reported by Men and Women in Prison, 21 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 1591 (2006)
Cathy Young: Assault Behind Bars
Interesting discussion of prison rape jokes on Reddit.
Some useful blog posts about prison rape, and prison rape jokes:
The Curvature: Prison rape and complacency
Ms Magazine blog: Prison rape: Can it be stopped?
Equal Writes: Rape in prison is still rape
Alas, a blog: Ezra Klein on Prison Rape
Feminist Critics: Discussion of the Alas, a blog post linked above
Alas, a blog: More on prison rape
Alas, a blog: Blog post round-up: Prison rape (Extensive list of links)
Reason Hit and Run: Mocking prison rape for fun and profit
Men’s Rights blogs on prison rape:
Human Stupidity: Stop Prison Rape! Legalize Corporal Punishment (Whipping)
Female Offenders: Prison Rape Report
Toy Soldiers: Cost of Prison Rape
Menstuff: Prison Rape
Mens-rights.net: Prison Rape: the challenge of prevention and enforcement (Note that this cut-and-pasted post is illustrated by an animated gif of a pair of boots with the caption: “These boots were made for kicking feminists in the cunt.”)