• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Prison Rape, America’s Torture

In the same week in which the world was told about mass rapes taking place in the Congo, a report was released which detailed the prevalence of rape in prisons and jails across the United States. In 2008 and 2009, 88,500 adults held in jails and prisons reported being sexually assaulted. The rates of exploitation of juveniles is even higher, one in eight will be victimized during their incarceration. Those are numbers that ought to give rise to mass protest around the nation.

American journalists will go all the way to Africa to report on sexual assault when they are able to inform the world on the same subject without ever leaving home. Rape in the Congo or Haiti are viewed as a kind of strange pornography, allowing Americans to see themselves as superior, and others, usually black people, as inferior and inhuman.

Movies and jokes told by stand up comics elicit bizarre interest or laughs if the subject is rape behind bars. The horror of sexual assault is usually not considered amusing, unless it takes place in America’s prison industrial complex.

Talking about prison rape means acknowledging the full horror of this nation’s reliance on the prison system to keep some groups, black American’s in particular, in a place of ultimate control and subservience. The 2 million person prison population is fully one half black, a statistic which in and of itself ought to create outrage and protest.

It is right and proper to be angry that Omar Khadr, taken into custody as a minor and threatened with rape, should still be detained at Guantanamo. It is not right to focus on the Khadr case without also acknowledging the horrors inherent in the American prison system, the largest on earth. Nations openly scorned as backward and uncivilized have but a fraction of their populace behind bars. The self-described “land of the free” is anything but, with only 5 percent of the world’s population and almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

Americans are not only at significant risk of sexual and other assaults in this country’s penal institutions. The majority of them face this risk without having committed a serious, violent crime. There are people living behind bars because they neglected to pay a bill. It is not illegal to owe a debt, but in some jurisdictions it is illegal to ignore a court summons issued because of that debt. Body attachments and bench warrants are issued for failure to pay medical bills, credit cards and child support, bringing back the debtors prisons of centuries ago. The lack of action on prison rape is even more egregious when the flimsiness of cause of incarceration is taken into account.

Apparently it is easier to take seriously the horrors inflicted upon women in the Congo without batting an eye at the plight of American women subject to sexual assault while in custody here at home. There is no need to soul search to ask questions about one’s own system if the persons in need of sympathy are far away. It is more difficult to question and to make demands on this nation, and to ponder the reasons why such brutality is permitted.

The figures on prison rape were released as a result of congressional action taken in 2003, when George W. Bush was president and Republicans were in control of congress. The Prison Rape Elimination Act requires the Justice Department to implement and take action to stem this violence. Yet it is the Obama administration Justice Department which now drags its feet. Attorney General Eric Holder has already missed a deadline to begin implementation of policies that would reduce the frequency of prison sexual assault. Instead of addressing this issue as required by congress, Holder makes excuses and blandly states that he “regrets” not having his homework done on time.

The high rate of sexual assaults in prison are yet another example of American’s willful ignorance of anything which might prove their nation to be criminal in its actions. America drops bombs, invades and occupies, and legalizes torture yet other peoples are labeled as uncivilized and the criminal enablers see themselves as good and superior.

Jails and prisons are filled with the most vulnerable people and groups in society. It isn’t surprising that their vulnerability is so easily exploited but it should not be accepted and the chief law enforcement officer shouldn’t be allowed to put this issue on the back burner.

Perhaps Justice Department action will engender a wider debate about America’s judicial system. That would be a step in the right direction, but for now, the victims of prison sexual assault need justice, and their numbers need to decrease dramatically and quickly.

MARGARET KIMBERLEY is a columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.

More articles by:

Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail