A Moral Stain of a Punchline

posted at 12:45 pm on March 31, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

How often does rape get used as a joke these days? Not often, except in one particular context — when the victims are men in prisons. Under those circumstances, the joke gets told over and over again, in movies, political speeches, late-night television, and so on. As Ezra Klein reminds us in yesterday’s LA Times, the easy familiarity that elicits broad laughter at these jokes indicts all of us as passive enablers of a human-rights atrocity that shows no signs of abating (via Instapundit):

Prison rape occupies a fairly odd space in our culture. It is, all at once, a cherished source of humor, a tacitly accepted form of punishment and a broadly understood human rights abuse. We pass legislation called the Prison Rape Elimination Act at the same time that we produce films meant to explore the funny side of inmate sexual brutality.

Occasionally, we even admit that prison rape is a quietly honored part of the punishment structure for criminals. When Enron’s Ken Lay was sentenced to jail, for instance, Bill Lockyer, then the attorney general of California, spoke dreamily of his desire “to personally escort Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey.’ ”

The culture is rife with similar comments. Although it would be unthinkable for the government today to institute corporal punishment in prisons, there is little or no outrage when the government interns prisoners in institutions where their fellow inmates will brutally violate them. We won’t touch you, but we can’t be held accountable for the behavior of Spike, now can we?

As our jokes and cultural products show, we can claim no ignorance. We know of the abuses, and we know of the rapes. Research by the University of South Dakota’s Cindy Struckman-Johnson found that 20% of prisoners reported being coerced or pressured into sex, and 10% said they were violently raped. In a 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 60,000 inmates claimed to have been sexually victimized by other inmates during the previous 12 months. Given the stigma around admitting such harms, the true numbers are probably substantially higher.

Hardly any of our current political class seem disturbed by this phenomenon in either party. My uncle Jim Morrissey tried to raise it when he served in the California Assembly in the early 1990s, but apathy doomed the attempt. The solutions — better enforcement, lower prisoner concentration, and alternatives for non-violent criminals — all cost too much money.

That cannot be the last word on this epidemic. The people we put in prison have earned their way into confinement, but we have a responsibility to protect them from sexual brutality once they get there. They become wards of the community, and widespread rapes happening with our full knowledge and tacit approval makes us complicit in the abuses. Bill Lockyer’s comments showed that tacit approval, coming from the highest law-enforcement official in California. What kind of message does that send to the rapists in prison, other than they’re performing part of the duties of the state in inflicting punishment?

We need to start making some tough decisions. Either we need to build a lot more prison space and hire a lot more prison guards to keep our current incarceration rates, or we need to start rethinking our criminal statutes with an eye towards eliminating violations that result in no violence to anyone else. We cannot keep laughing off prison rapes as some sort of sick joke without working to end them.


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Even prisoner avocates on the left won’t deal with it because it is their clients, the prisoners, who are the culprits

RobCon on March 31, 2008 at 12:50 PM

Funny how all the libs get upset about Gay bashing, but call them gay and they take you to court. They make fun of gay sex in jails, but “defend” the gay lifestyle.
Who are the most bigoted people in the U.S.??? Liberals

right2bright on March 31, 2008 at 12:51 PM

Not much rehabilitation going on if the State is sanctioning rape in prisons. Pretty dehumanizing and a stupid way to change hearts and minds…

Maquis on March 31, 2008 at 12:52 PM

What we can do is obey all laws and not commit acts that will send us to the slammer.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 12:52 PM

The problem with giving nonviolent offenders different punishments is that in many cases their offense (perjury, embezzlement, etc) hurts more people than many violent offenses.

Mister Mets on March 31, 2008 at 12:54 PM

Well again there is a difference between rape and other forms of sex. Rape should never be considered to be “OK” in any sense or any place.

Its assault at the very least

William Amos on March 31, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Bill Lockyer’s comments showed that tacit approval, coming from the highest law-enforcement official in California.

He made a joke as to one particular prisoner. I would not label that tacit of approval of rape. This is an unfair characterization of Lockyer. Nevertheless, you’ll be happy to know that Jerry Brown (yes that Jerry Brown) is now the highest law enforcement official in CA.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 12:55 PM

How hard could this possible be to regulate and prosecute?

Every 10 year old has a camera on his computer now.

There is no “privacy” in prison.

Rapes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and consensual sex should be prosecuted as well.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Guess that party!

‘From the studio that brought you ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ (DEM) ” intones the preview for the light comedy “Let’s Go To Prison,” “comes a penetrating look at the American penal system.” In case that was too subtle for you, the DVD box features a dropped bar of soap, just waiting for some poor inmate to bend over to pick it up — and suffer a hilarious sexual assault in the process.

Or maybe you’re not feeling up for a movie. It’s more of a board-game afternoon. How about picking up “Don’t Drop the Soap,” a board game created by the son of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (DEM) of Kansas. The game “is simply intended for entertainment,” said Nicole Corcoran, the governor’s spokeswoman. What, after all, could be more entertaining then trying to “avoid being cornered by the Aryans in the shower room” (one of the goals of the game, according to its promotional material)?

Here in Washington, however, the weather has been beautiful lately, so if you were bored last week, you might have wanted to do something out of the house. One option would have been going down to the Department of Justice, where, on the third floor, officials were holding hearings on prison rape, interrogating administrators from some of the worst prisons in the nation about the abuses that go on within their walls.

These hearings are held annually. This year’s transcripts aren’t online yet, but in 2006 you could have heard a man named Clinton explain, “I had no choice but to enter into a relationship with another inmate in my dorm in order to keep the rest of them off of me. In exchange for his protection from other inmates, I had to be with him sexually any time he demanded it. It was so humiliating, and I often cried silently at night in my bed … but dealing with one is better than having 10 or more men demanding sex from you at any given time.”

Clinton’s testimony wasn’t very funny, and it wasn’t for entertainment. Nor was the 2001 report by Human Rights Watch, “No Escape,” which included a letter from an inmate confessing that “I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to five black men and two white men at a time. I’ve had knifes at my head and throat. I had fought and been beat so hard that I didn’t ever think I’d see straight again.”

Occasionally, we even admit that prison rape is a quietly honored part of the punishment structure for criminals. When Enron’s Ken Lay was sentenced to jail, for instance, Bill Lockyer (DEM), then the attorney general of California, spoke dreamily of his desire “to personally escort Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey.’ ”

funky chicken on March 31, 2008 at 12:58 PM

personally, one of the things that keeps me on the straight and narrow is the idea of being bent over while spike…spikes me.

Other then the fear of being raped, prison is mostly a joke.

Wyrd on March 31, 2008 at 12:59 PM

I’m a big law and order guy, but I also believe that laws mean something. I also believe that once someone is under the control of the state, the state has an obligation to protect the rights of its wards. Kudos on you Ed, for posting this and your attitude.

bikermailman on March 31, 2008 at 1:01 PM

When there is a myriad of things I need to take action on and contribute my time, money, and effort to, I don’t think this will be one of them.

Redhead Infidel on March 31, 2008 at 1:02 PM

Hey, at least they aren’t being viciously waterboarded by Bushitlerhulliburtonadolfdarthcheney.

Aristotle on March 31, 2008 at 1:03 PM

So gays tend to be criminals? Hmm, it all makes sense now.

Other then the fear of being raped, prison is mostly a joke.

Wyrd on March 31, 2008 at 12:59 PM

Exactly, I was in a little trouble a few years back and that was the main thing I was worried about, well, that and being a felon, losing my job, freedom and everything else that goes with being locked up. I just couldn’t deal.
Oh, and it was all dismissed.

Geronimo on March 31, 2008 at 1:06 PM

personally, one of the things that keeps me on the straight and narrow is the idea of being bent over while spike…spikes me.

I agree. The humiliation of being arrested, strip searched, convicted and sent to the slammer (among other things), would be a nightmare to me. To most people in prison, it’s the price of doing business.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:06 PM

What we can do is obey all laws and not commit acts that will send us to the slammer.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 12:52 PM

That argument doesn’t work. It allows for prison rape to be a disincentive for comitting crimes. By extension, that means that rape is part of the punishment procress. I don’t think prison should be a picnic, but I think rape is kind of a rough punishment for lesser crimes.

apollyonbob on March 31, 2008 at 1:08 PM

Good post, Ed. It is a problem that has, over time, been tacitly accepted by our culture. Prisons should not be a place in which the law is simply ignored. Ideally, they should be the opposite.

Yoosaion on March 31, 2008 at 1:12 PM

A few years ago, I read of a man who was sent to jail for a crime he did not commit. He fought his conviction for about ten years or so, until he obtained a new trial and then exonerated.

That’s the good news.

The bad news was that, while waiting for his exoneration, he was brutally raped in prison, and contracted HIV as a result. I don’t know for sure if he’s still alive.

Prison rape is not funny, in any shape, matter or form. Especially if the victim is someone who shouldn’t be there in the first place.

newton on March 31, 2008 at 1:12 PM

That argument doesn’t work.

It works for me. And do not put words in my mouth in order to get a hook. Obeying the law and not ending up in prison to begin with is the first line of defense against being raped in prison.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:14 PM

He made a joke as to one particular prisoner. I would not label that tacit of approval of rape.

He was wishing rape on another human being. That is a self characterization if I ever heard one. To top it off, Lay was a victim of the war against capitalism. If he had lived it is likely that his conviction would have been thrown out because even the jurors said the prosecution did not prove he did anything wrong. He was convicted because they “felt” he had to know what was going on or should have known. The attorney general of California was hoping a violent crime would be committed against Lay. Just another dirtbag liberal showing their true colors.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:15 PM

AFAIK, the number of rapes of men in prison rival that of women outside of prison. It seems to me serious offenders have far too much leeway now. In prison we have violence, gangs, screaming, while the guards act as window dressing or furniture. Rather than gangs and violence being the primary organizing influence in “max” prison, how about discipline and compliance? The left would object to that as inhumane and taking away individual rights. The right to rape and kill while in prison, I guess. If I were in such a prison I’d welcome such security, rather than as if living in a jungle free-for-all.

Paul-Cincy on March 31, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Solve it by executing the rapist. All violent rapes should be punished by death.

Tim Burton on March 31, 2008 at 1:16 PM

how much of our prison population is illegal immigrants ? wouldnt that free up alot of space ? but of course it will cost money to build an effective fence to keep them from returning.

palefaced on March 31, 2008 at 1:17 PM

I wonder if the costs of treating all these guys for the HIV the acquire in jail is less than that of reforming the systems.
I have a real problem with someone being given a death sentence by an agency other than the proper authorities.

Iblis on March 31, 2008 at 1:19 PM

Anyone who thinks it’s a joke should just watch American History X. It quits being funny real quick.

darclon on March 31, 2008 at 1:20 PM

http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/3/27/114208.shtml

half of kalifornias inmates are illegals.

17% in the rest of the prisons.

thats alot of free space, and would help the guard / inmate ratio.

palefaced on March 31, 2008 at 1:23 PM

The attorney general of California was hoping a violent crime would be committed against Lay.

He was making a joke.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:23 PM

but of course it will cost money to build an effective fence to keep them from returning.

The US is sending the Army Corps of Engineers and 28 million dollars to egypt to build an impenetrable wall between egypt and gaza. It is scheduled to be completed within 6 months. However protecting our own borders has all but been declared impossible by most politicians in both parties.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:24 PM

He was making a joke.

He was being interviewed by the media and that was his statement. Stop trying to justify it.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:26 PM

half of kalifornias inmates are illegals.

That’s inaccurate. While a significant minority, the illegal immigrants do not make up half the prison or county population.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:27 PM

He was being interviewed by the media and that was his statement. Stop trying to justify it.

Stop trying to misrepresent the fact that it was a joke.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:28 PM

The funny part is that all the ALCU types up in arms about Guantanomo barely make a peep about this. My guess is that is because the perpetrators are other prisoners, and not the guards.

Clark1 on March 31, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Solve it by executing the rapist. All violent rapes should be punished by death.

Tim Burton on March 31, 2008 at 1:16 PM

A good friend of ours, actually the best man at our wedding, is in jail on simple rape charges. He had a corrupt judge, who, against all good judgement, was promoted to the 5th and actually had a say in my friend’s appeal. There was NO physical evidence and evidence left out, the accuser changed her testimony, accused her grandfather of rape three months before, was called ‘manipulative and a liar’ by her own mother on the stand. She has a history of mental illness but it’s not admissible. She got into a fight with a girl in school that day and was afraid of getting in trouble for missing the bus and getting home late. So she tried to get a ride from my friend on the way home from school. He declined. She accused him of rape. This girl claims to have felt him moving in and out of her, but a physical exam/rape kit showed her to still be a virgin. He got 20 years, sentenced with prejudice, and has to serve 85% of his sentence before he’s eligible for anything. I have the court transcripts. I have written to people over and over again about this. I don’t know where else to go with it. You tell me if you have any good ideas.

So, no, in a nutshell, all convicted violent rapists should not be put to death.

LickyLicky on March 31, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Stop trying to misrepresent the fact that it was a joke.

He’s not a comedian on showtime. He was the attorney general of california making a statement about the sentencing of a citizen.

I bet you flip out about everything Rush or Ann Coulter says but this fits your agenda so it’s “only a joke”.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:33 PM

we need to start rethinking our criminal statutes with an eye towards eliminating violations that result in no violence to anyone else.

This is the argument that the pot heads were all using last week to decriminalize drug use, which while not violent, has had (and has) profound detrimental effects on society. But hey, why lock up drug dealers when they didn’t knife anybody?

I don’t think that building more prisons is the answer but harsher penalties are required for the so-called non violent crimes. This would include steep monetary fines, community service, and a good dose of shame to boot. Rape or no rape, prisons today are less of a deterrent than an inconvenience. They need to be places without cable television and olympic-class sports facilities.

highhopes on March 31, 2008 at 1:33 PM

This is going to erupt into a firestorm of controversy, even among our political leanings, but one of the key policies that would help alleviate this problem (along with the current tally of 1% of the population being incarcerated in increasingly overcrowded prisons) would be furtherance of the death penalty.

There have been numerous cases of the spreading of HIV through rape. If this can be proven, why not sentence the rapist to death, considering they just administered their own death sentence to their victim? And no, I’m not talking Death Row as it exists. Take the guy, put him in solitary until the day they shoot him up, or light him up, or hang him up.

On the other hand, I can tell you that the concept of prison containing that sub-human atmosphere of punishment is certainly a deterrent, at least to those who are not career criminals. Watch the movie 25th Hour to get a good sense of the fear that haunts those who go to prison for the first time. It’s not a joke.

MadisonConservative on March 31, 2008 at 1:33 PM

What we can do is obey all laws and not commit acts that will send us to the slammer.

That’s only a good answer if two things are true:
1. There are no innocent people in prison
2. Every criminal offence should be punishable by rape

Rape is not a joke, and it should be just just as socially unacceptable to joke about rape as it is to make racial slurs.

Mrs L on March 31, 2008 at 1:37 PM

I know two lovely young ladies whose lives were seriously blighted when their father died of AIDS contract in a prison on a ten year sentence for three oz. of marijuana. You can argue the Rockefeller drug laws. It is hard to argue a death sentence for three ounces.

levi from queens on March 31, 2008 at 1:38 PM

Rape is not a joke, and it should be just just as socially unacceptable to joke about rape as it is to make racial slurs.

Thank and especially when the person making the joke is the attorney general of california. Do you think if he made this joke about any of the hollwierdos sent to jail that he would have been the attorney general at the end of that week?

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:42 PM

Thank

you

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:43 PM

The solutions — better enforcement, lower prisoner concentration, and alternatives for non-violent criminals — all cost too much money.

This is what I consider a harbinger of our culture’s demise: when we determine whether or not to do the right thing based on what it costs in dollars. There are times when government functions can be placed into an equation of how do you get the best bang for your buck. On those occasions, those functions should be privatized (like public education). However, there are also times when doing the right thing is more costly than the alternatives. That’s when government needs to step in and raise revenue to cover those costs.

This is why I cringe whenever cost is brought up in debates over the death penalty. It is either OK for the state to execute people or it isn’t. The cost of doing so is immaterial because, let’s face it, the cheapest alternative is to not prosecute criminals at all.

Kafir on March 31, 2008 at 1:43 PM

He’s not a comedian on showtime. He was the attorney general of california making a statement about the sentencing of a citizen.

He made an off the cuff joke about a very hated defendant. Rightfully or wrongly, his comment was not a “wish” — it was joke.

I bet you flip out about everything Rush or Ann Coulter says but this fits your agenda so it’s “only a joke”.

Well bet away, because you would again be wrong.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:43 PM

ya, i linked to this story this morning on DrunkReport.com as well.

interesting stuff.

Brian: So how was the shower, Peter?
Peter: O its terrible, and the rumours about the soap are true. You cant hold it to save your life.
Prisoners: Hey thats the guy who couldnt hold the soap. That was a classic.

Drunk Report on March 31, 2008 at 1:45 PM

about a very hated defendant.

Hated by whom? The people who get thier info from katie couric? It was a classless, ignorant remark from a public servant who wasn’t elected to make such remarks.

Want to hear jokes, go to a comedy club. Good or bad jokes, that’s what the forum is for. A press conference about a controversial sentencing is not the place for rape jokes if there is even an acceptable place for them.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 1:47 PM

Solve it by executing the rapist. All violent rapes should be punished by death.

Tim Burton on March 31, 2008 at 1:16 PM

I agree. Rape may not actually kill a person physically but mentally, yes.

Geronimo on March 31, 2008 at 1:54 PM

He made an off the cuff joke about a very hated defendant.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:43 PM

Then he was completely unprofessional, and unfit for public office.

MadisonConservative on March 31, 2008 at 1:54 PM

The solutions — better enforcement, lower prisoner concentration, and alternatives for non-violent criminals — all cost too much money.

Not as much money as one successful lawsuit would pay. You said it yourself: They become wards of the community, and widespread rapes happening with our full knowledge and tacit approval makes us complicit in the abuses.

Millions of dollars are at stake. Make it a class-action claim of abuse, and you’re looking at a situation where a state could be forced to pay millions of dollars to convincted felons. That won’t be very funny to the taxpayers who have to foot the bill.

If I had a client in jail that this happened to, you can bet that I’d sue.

Sydney Carton on March 31, 2008 at 1:59 PM

The entire point of this, Blake, is that our public officials are supposed to take responsibility for conditions in the prisons, not joke about them at press conferences. The fact that he felt comfortable enough to joke about it demonstrates the tacit approval that he gave to rape.

Ed Morrissey on March 31, 2008 at 2:00 PM

elicits broad laughter at these jokes indicts all of us as passive enablers of a human-rights atrocity

I disagree. We laugh at things as jokes all the time that aren’t in reality funny. People getting hurt, drug humor, any dark humor. It’s human nature and we don’t need to be scolded about it.
That is separate from the issue of actual prison rape, which should indeed be treated seriously.
I don’t agree with Ezra’s prescription, however, which seems to be the same laundry list of liberal positions that is given as the solution to just about every ill in America.

MayBee on March 31, 2008 at 2:09 PM

I have a theory as to why prison rape jokes so permeate the culture. Prison rape is generally accepted as both (a) a terrible thing (insofar as no one wants it to happen to them) and (b) unstoppable.

Hasn’t humor always been a classic means of coping with terrible things that we believe are out of our control?

Mind you, it’s beyond troubling that an attorney general would feel comfortable enough to joke about it, too, especially if he’s involved in incarcerating people. That he was joking is completely beside the point.

Kensington on March 31, 2008 at 2:18 PM

The HBO series OZ also highlighted this issue, but it came off as if the producers wanted it to appear erotic in some way… which was weird, to the extreme.

It’s possible that the Hollywood lefties who make such a joke about this issue in film are trying to communicate their own values to us by implying that the victims really “like it” after a while, proving that we’re all just a bunch of bisexuals at heart.

If so, then it wouldn’t be a surprise. H’wood always tries to force their libertine values and multi-culti philosophy down our throats (pun intended).

Gartrip on March 31, 2008 at 2:26 PM

The HBO series OZ also highlighted this issue, but it came off as if the producers wanted it to appear erotic in some way

I worked in a nationally known upscale restaurant when I was building my business and the gay waiters loved that show.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 2:29 PM

Great post, Ed. Good for you.

As a past and future prosecutor, this issue has always troubled me. I have little (read: no) sympathy for criminals in most cases.

But we sentence them to a specific punishment. And we specifically criminalize rape (and other sexual activity in prison, for that matter). Thus, the punishment should be the punishment prescribed; nothing less, nothing more – and can’t include tacit approval of rape.

It makes no sense. There are countless prohibitions against other types of extra-judicial punishment; and yet we at least tacitly permit this.

Do I personally care if some of these vile people are violated? No. Not much at all, for some of them. But I care that the law itself is violated. If society things repeated rapes is a suitable punishment, make it part of the sentence.

At the very least, I wish it was better understood that most prisoners DO get out at some point. And when they’ve been violated, they come out and violate others. I’ve seen plenty of cases of non-violent offenders come out of prison and then go down for rape or aggravated assault.

Letting people be raped in prison ultimately hurts us more than it hurts the prisoner. And when he gets out, it might be your wife or your daughter (or you) who pays the price.

They deserve the punishment they were given. Nothing less, nothing more. And if you’re going to let them out, rehabilitation isn’t a bad idea; at the very least, don’t create worse problems for society.

Professor Blather on March 31, 2008 at 2:29 PM

I believe that people accept prision rape as an acceptable fact because deep down inside we realized that many prision sentences don’t go nearly far enough to punish the perp. If most Americas thought that prision sentences were fair, then this wouldn’t be tolerated.

When a child rapist who should, in a decent society, have gotten a trip to ol’ sparky, instead gets one or two years in prision, we know down deep in our souls that he is not getting the punishment that he deserves. When someone kills twenty people and “gets off” with twenty years in jail, we need him to be punished more severly. We need to feel that justice was done for the victims of those crimes.

Someone who violated another human being in such horrible, horrible ways needs to be violated himself. He needs to be made helpless and afraid like he made his victims. There is a natural, human sentence that would be carried out in those cases. Here in civilized society we have handed over the responsiblity to our justice system and, time and time again, they have failed us. So we go back to nature and we count on those who are beyond the law to make sure that the criminal is, while not punished appropriately, at least punished severely.

29Victor on March 31, 2008 at 2:32 PM

Thanks Ed. You expressed a consistent moral view. If we don’t look and act to improve the situation, we ultimately debase ourselves.

G. Charles on March 31, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Ed,

Good post, but some of the more controversal details have been left out. The race factor in these rapes is huge, and this may explain one reason why the story has been buried so hard for so long. Here is a link to a 2001 study done by Human Rights Watch that is very disturbing.

DFCtomm on March 31, 2008 at 2:42 PM

Lockyer’s tasteless comment reflects his frustration with a justice system that he is a part of, particularly

the same laundry list of liberal positions that is given as the solution to just about every ill in America.

As the AG he sees (along with most sane people) that punishment is no longer effective as a deterrent to criminal activity. Unfortunately for all of us this trend is moving in the wrong direction, prime and tragic examples are the refusal by many states to pass Jessica’s Law (manitory minimums for rapists) and the absolutely asinine premise that the death penalty constitutes undue pain and suffering.

dmann on March 31, 2008 at 2:43 PM

Why is socially acceptable to bash adult white men, white boys and southerners. I hate the fact that the phrase “Red neck” is ok in any venue, “white-boy” is always a riot and the term “old white guy” is a staple in the every black comedians routine. (In one form or another)

I guess we can add prison rape to the list of socially acceptable hypocrisies.

Claypigeon on March 31, 2008 at 2:44 PM

Someone who violated another human being in such horrible, horrible ways needs to be violated himself. He needs to be made helpless and afraid like he made his victims. There is a natural, human sentence that would be carried out in those cases.

The more inhumane the prison experience, the more likely that perpetrator is going to be more dangerous when he gets out. The problem with our prison system is that like most government agencies there is no clear, uniform purpose or goal. Prisons exist in this country right now only for the purpose of housing convicted criminals. There can be one purpose or many but just housing criminals isn’t one of them. Prisons should 1) protect society from dangerous criminals 2)rehabilitate criminals so they do not committ more crimes and are able to function in a civilized society. 3) punish and deter. Post modernism has given prisoners cable, playboy and islam. Our system is afraid to force prisoners to become educated or learn a vocation but hires imams to indoctrinate them in radical islam. Prisoners should live in isloation except in the time they are attending classes or therapy. No tv or movies, we don’t want our children to watch this stuff but it’s ok for already damaged individuals? Books only and no pornography or “popular” literature. Not killing someone in prison should not be considered good behavior. College degrees, satisfactory completion of vocational training and positive results in therapy should be the only way to shorten a prison sentence and even the only fractionally. Unless we can do what needs to be done without political correctness our prison population and recidivist rates will climb.

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 2:53 PM

Question: Let’s say that we pass laws about prison rape being illegal (like rape isn’t illegal in the first place). Is that truly going to prevent prison rape from happening?

I agree, it’s not a joke. Regardless of what we’re inundated with. But I also agree with what others have said: the thought of being raped in prison is one of the miriad reasons why I do everything I can to stay on the straight and narrow. True, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be wrongly convicted of something. HOWEVER, staying on the straight and narrow does mean that you won’t be rightly convicted of something. So, that’s an incentive for me to stay on the straight and narrow.

But back to my question: Just because a law says that it’s illegal to do something in a prison doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Let’s say that someone is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. What incentive does he have for NOT raping another inmate? It’s not like they can give him more prison time. Nor is it like anyone would ever allow it to be an offense horrific enough to warrant the death penalty. And if it’s punishable to the point that they put him in solitary for the rest of his life… Well… Big deal. He gets a room all to himself with all the amenities (cable tv, hot meal, internet access in some areas, etc.), the yard all to himself, and he doesn’t have to compete with anyone for anything. And he doesn’t have to pay a dime for it. Yep, that would *certainly* be a deterrant for me. /sarc.

There’s been studies done that show that, for some people, going to prison is actually a step UP in the world–even with the idea that they could be raped if they were put in prison.

So, really, what can be done about this? It’s not like we could actually make going to prison something ‘bad’ by taking away cable tv, internet access, etc. That would violate their inalienable human rights.

Honestly, I don’t think there is any way of stopping this from happening. Not until life in prison become worse than what it’s like on the outside. For anyone.

jedijson on March 31, 2008 at 2:58 PM

Honestly, I don’t think there is any way of stopping this from happening. Not until life in prison become worse than what it’s like on the outside. For anyone.

Absolutely, the current liberal humanist approach has failed miserably! Deterrence is all about dire consequences.

dmann on March 31, 2008 at 3:07 PM

About 15 years ago Gore Vidal said that every year more people are raped in prison than on the outside but no one cares because they’re prisoners. And men.

David Frum mentions this in his book Comeback. It’s a sad situation.

Vote Sauron 08 on March 31, 2008 at 3:28 PM

He’s not a comedian on showtime. He was the attorney general of california making a statement about the sentencing of a citizen.

He made an off the cuff joke about a very hated defendant. Rightfully or wrongly, his comment was not a “wish” — it was joke.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 1:43 PM

Blake’s right. He was making a joke, not a wish or a recommendation.

Unfortunately, that pretty much wraps up his miserable defense. It’s not funny, it’s not appropriate for an Attorney General, it gives a nod and a wink as if it’s OK that someone gets violated that way.

You can only defend the joke, if at all, if Ken Lay was in no danger of it actually happening. We all know that was not the case.

And no, I don’t have great sympathy for lawbreakers, and don’t care for the epidemic of being too easily offended. Even so, there are limits.

tom on March 31, 2008 at 3:28 PM

I’ll go ahead and say it: I’ve made that joke a hundred times, and I would bet that the majority of males on this site have as well. It’s one of the oldest jokes in the book.

And I’ve never, ever made a joke about “conventional” rapes, because they are not funny at all.

So I’m guilty. Thanks, Ed, for pointing out the hypocrisy. You are correct. It’s not funny in any context, and I just never considered the double standard.

Matticus Finch on March 31, 2008 at 3:29 PM

Honestly, I don’t think there is any way of stopping this from happening. Not until life in prison become worse than what it’s like on the outside. For anyone.

Of course it can be stopped. The problem is that the guards turn a blind eye.

A 100 million dollar lawsuit will stop this really quick. Trust me.

Sydney Carton on March 31, 2008 at 3:29 PM

“his miserable defense” being “Lockyer’s miserable defense”

tom on March 31, 2008 at 3:29 PM

Having worked in a medium security prison for a bit, may I inject a few observations.
1. Rape was used as a means of control, usually to force an individual to become a gang member for the protection of the pack.
2. You can’t stop it if no one will testify. The best way to end up dead or in “protective custody” (read that solitary confinement) for the rest of your sentence is to be seen as a snitch. Even if you’re transferred, the word will get to your new institution sooner or later and your life will be in danger and back into “PC” you go.
3. Prison isn’t a picnic even with tv, educational classes and weight rooms. Most everything that I observed being done by prison officials had the purpose of keeping things as calm and safe as possible for everyone. As long as hard labor can’t be required to keep men busy and exhaust them physically and mentally, something has to be done to keep things under control. This doesn’t account for the fact that most prisoners were constantly looking for things to make improvised weapons out of (even newspaper and toothpaste could be turned into a weapon). Non-officer staff who worked directly with prisoners had to be taught hand to hand techniques and first aid. We were even offered firearms training. The chaplin had to wear a rain coat in certain sections of the prison to keep from being soaked in prisoner body fluids and waste as he tried to minister to them. The corrections officers expected to be contaminated if they had to take someone out of their cell. And this was a very well run prison.

Catseye on March 31, 2008 at 3:36 PM

From the link provided by DFCtomm on March 31, 2008 at 2:42 PM

A Florida prisoner whom we will identify only as P.R. was beaten, suffered a serious eye injury, and assaulted by an inmate armed with a knife, all due to his refusal to submit to anal sex.

After six months of repeated threats and attacks by other inmates, at the end of his emotional endurance, he tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists with a razor. In a letter to Human Rights Watch, he chronicled his unsuccessful efforts to induce prison authorities to protect him from abuse. Summing up these experiences, he wrote: “The opposite of compassion is not hatred, it’s indifference.”

That last would be a good Quote of the Day: “the opposite of compassion is not hatred, it’s indifference.”

tom on March 31, 2008 at 3:37 PM

tom on March 31, 2008 at 3:28 PM

Holy cow, you covered every single base with that post. LOL

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 3:42 PM

or we need to start rethinking our criminal statutes with an eye towards eliminating violations that result in no violence to anyone else.

Firstly, stop putting people in prison for pot. Yes including dealing (or at least small time dealing).

libertytexan on March 31, 2008 at 3:46 PM

As long as hard labor can’t be required to keep men busy and exhaust them physically and mentally.

When and why did hard labor fail to qualify as legitimate punishment? Prison is punishment and should entail more punitive measures than “doin’ time”.

dmann on March 31, 2008 at 3:57 PM

I stopped smoking pot when I got out of high school but I remember people getting busted all the time. Everything from joints to ounces to pounds and I don’t remember a single one going to prison. That was a long time ago when the laws were tougher yet people keep posting on here about all the people in prison for small amounts. I’d like to see some links to sources that document first time offender information and other statistics. It seems like the pot smokers on here want us to believe that the same judges that are letting murderers and child molestors walk free are sending people to prison for a couple of joints. And as far as that earlier post about the father who caught aids in prison after being sent there for having three ounces, that’s sad for the children but what did that guy’s record look like?

peacenprosperity on March 31, 2008 at 3:58 PM

“Of course it can be stopped. The problem is that the guards turn a blind eye.

A 100 million dollar lawsuit will stop this really quick. Trust me.”

Seems to me, if this were possible, it would have already happened.

I don’t think you can sue the feds. Not sure though.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2008 at 4:17 PM

Or the state as far as imprisonment is concerned.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2008 at 4:17 PM

When and why did hard labor fail to qualify as legitimate punishment? Prison is punishment and should entail more punitive measures than “doin’ time”.
dmann on March 31, 2008 at 3:57 PM

Initially, it was just something I remembered from my prison employee training. However, having googled it, the cites don’t support that blanket statement on a national level. I know here in New Mexico, it’s the practice. Also, there are cites for the federal level ( http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/law/Covenant94/Specific_Articles/08.html )

Hard labor is no longer available as a
criminal sanction under federal criminal law, though
it remains a possible punishment under the Uniform
Code of Military Justice and some state laws. In
these jurisdictions, a judge may sentence a person
to “a term of imprisonment with hard labor.” There
is no specific constitutional or statutory
prohibition against hard labor. The Eighth
Amendment, as discussed above, prohibits the
infliction of any punishment that is “cruel and
unusual.” While hard labor does not necessarily
constitute cruel and unusual punishment, prison work
requirements which compel inmates to perform
physical labor which is beyond their strength,
endangers their lives, or causes undue pain
constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Ray v.
Mabry, 556 F.2d 881 (8th Cir. 1977). The Supreme
Court has, on more than one occasion, found hard
labor to be an excessive punishment grossly
disproportionate to the crime for which it was
imposed. Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349
(1910).

Catseye on March 31, 2008 at 4:36 PM

Anyone who thinks it’s a joke should just watch American History X. It quits being funny real quick.

darclon on March 31, 2008 at 1:20 PM

No kidding. Another good one is Animal Factory.

Ugly on March 31, 2008 at 4:43 PM

I’m not going to feel bad about this. Ain’t 1 man in America doesn’t know this goes on.

fear of anal rape in a shower is a major deterrent.

I am less likely to commit a felony because I do NOT want to be ass raped.

beefytee on March 31, 2008 at 4:46 PM

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.
But, if you really want to get serious about this you have to segregate sex offenders from the rest of the population (and this already happens in most prisons) and when prison rapes do occur you have to bring down the death penalty. I don’t like saying that, but some people just can’t be fixed.
BTW, I don’t think I’m totally qualified to comment on this as I don’t know any prison guards and/or detainees. I just happen to be addicted to that “Lockup” show on PMSNBC.

malan89 on March 31, 2008 at 4:50 PM

Ed, I think you’re exactly right. We do need some real prison reform in this country, to battle this issue as well as recidivism and gang activity. I’ve heard no major public figure address any of these problems.

CP on March 31, 2008 at 4:57 PM

We cannot keep laughing off prison rapes as some sort of sick joke without working to end them.

Why can’t we? It’s a deterrent. I committed several punishable offeces in my day. I did so knowing that I could be punished. When I turned 19 I thought “Hey this might get me raped in prison… I think I’ll go home instead”

Theworldisnotenough on March 31, 2008 at 5:06 PM

I’m all for chemical castration of offenders…but I don’t think that would be deemed constitutional. It’s a damn shame though…killing a couple birds with 1 stone. Cleaning up the prisons and the gene pool with 1 well placed chemical cock-tail…

oh damn I should have my OWN blog.

beefytee on March 31, 2008 at 5:15 PM

The biggest problem with prison rape is that at least one of the participants (usually the more brutal) is actually enjoying himself in prison. Nobody should be experiencing pleasure of any type in prison.

Blacklake on March 31, 2008 at 5:16 PM

Rethink our war on drugs. that is the simplest way to solve the problems.

There are two many laws, there are too many stupid laws. Politicians have destroyed this country. Next time you hear someone say “there should be a lwa against that” tell them to STFUASD

unseen on March 31, 2008 at 5:19 PM

Great post, Ed. It’s embarassing that many so-called conservatives think that individual liberties shouldn’t apply to incarcerated Americans. Unfortunately, no politician can ever take a serious stand in terms of stopping prison rape, because that politician will be portrayed as soft on criminals. The sentiment that people who go to prison “deserve” to be raped is disgusting.

Enrique on March 31, 2008 at 5:21 PM

The solutions — better enforcement, lower prisoner concentration, and alternatives for non-violent criminals — all cost too much money

Worse, these solutions are tantamount to making prison “not prison”.

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

pabarge on March 31, 2008 at 5:24 PM

There are some crime where I think it should be just another part of the sentence. I don’t believe the death penalty is correct, but for child killers… I say bring on Spike.

AbaddonsReign on March 31, 2008 at 5:30 PM

Ed, I worked with a guy that was in Prison for like 8 years(felon) for robbery..(He would break into stores at night and break into the safes and steal money)

He got caught and put into prison, years after he was release from prison he was diagnosed with Full blown AIDS..(He was got married, after he got out of prison and his wife ended up with AIDS also..)

He said, that he wasn’t raped however… who would actually admit to that..

So, the prisons are spreading AIDS, not just rape.

Chakra Hammer on March 31, 2008 at 5:36 PM

So in effect my former co-worker was given the death sentence , for Robbery.(Since the correctional facility gave him AIDS, also his wife who had no part of the crime also was given the death penalty as well.. )

Chakra Hammer on March 31, 2008 at 5:39 PM

Hey! Here’s an idea!

Don’t commit crimes and go to friggin’ prison!

Problem solved. Nothing to see here… move along.

SilverStar830 on March 31, 2008 at 5:40 PM

BTW, ED this guy that i’m telling you about, was in prison in Minnesota.

Chakra Hammer on March 31, 2008 at 5:42 PM

SilverStar830 on March 31, 2008 at 5:40 PM

How about just serving the actual sentence that you are given?

Rape isn’t part of the sentence, and getting AIDS isn’t in the sentence either.

Chakra Hammer on March 31, 2008 at 5:44 PM

Is it bad if I’m still laughing?

Capitana on March 31, 2008 at 5:44 PM

. . . He got 20 years, sentenced with prejudice, and has to serve 85% of his sentence before he’s eligible for anything. I have the court transcripts. I have written to people over and over again about this. I don’t know where else to go with it. You tell me if you have any good ideas.

LickyLicky on March 31, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Sounds like you have little recourse. Hire a private detective to come up with new evidence, maybe; or go to the media. Ultimately a media campaign can be effective, if it forces the DA to reopen the case.
_________________

Ed, thanks for bringing this unpleasant topic up. I too find it hard to believe that we tolerate this kind of misbehavior in our prisons. Certainly reducing the inmate population by decriminalizing possession of drugs and curtailing illegal immigration can help, but ultimately it’s going to take a new look at how we deal with criminals and imprisonment.

One immediate fix: As someone above mentioned, prison cells can be monitored constantly with cameras. And anyone seen committing a violent act upon another prisoner can be isolated, if necessary for the duration of his sentence.

MrLynn on March 31, 2008 at 5:47 PM

The entire point of this, Blake, is that our public officials are supposed to take responsibility for conditions in the prisons, not joke about them at press conferences. The fact that he felt comfortable enough to joke about it demonstrates the tacit approval that he gave to rape.

Well, Ed, the points of my comments are that I disagree. Saying an off handed remark, even if in poor taste, does not equate to tacit approval of rape.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 5:50 PM

You tell me if you have any good ideas.
LickyLicky on March 31, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Hire a good appellate attorney.

Blake on March 31, 2008 at 5:52 PM

BTW, Ed it’s snowing like a mofo north of the twin Cities! >:{

Chakra Hammer on March 31, 2008 at 5:55 PM

Easy solution is to start punishing those who are guilty of the rapes.

As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, “eunuchy snip snip”.

Benaiah on March 31, 2008 at 6:10 PM

Ed, I’m delighted you brought this up, but you may not like the solution I propose. I propose the death penalty for any prison rapist. The logic being that if you are in prison, you already have transgressed the laws. If you can’t behave decently in a place of punishment, we just need rid of you permanently.

thuja on March 31, 2008 at 6:46 PM

Hey! Here’s an idea!

Don’t commit crimes and go to friggin’ prison!

Problem solved. Nothing to see here… move along.

SilverStar830 on March 31, 2008 at 5:40 PM

For all the morons that think this way, I have news for you.
Innocent people are sentenced to prison every day.
Here in Illinois we have had more people released from death row than were put to death.
Yeah, DNA evidence freed them.
God help you if any of you find yourselves in this situation.

rockdalian on March 31, 2008 at 6:55 PM

Anyone who thinks it’s a joke should just watch American History X. It quits being funny real quick.

darclon on March 31, 2008 at 1:20 PM

When exactly does Nazis being raped cease being funny?

Really. I’d like to know, because the mere thought still makes me chuckle uncontrollably.

Misha I on March 31, 2008 at 7:13 PM

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