Report: More than 60,000 Inmates are Raped Each Year

180px-Prison_cellA federal commission on prison rape has called for reforms and safeguards to combat prison rape, which involves an estimated 60,000 victims each year among the prison population.

The eight-member panel was created pursuant to the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act. It found that 4.5 percent of the surveyed inmates reported being sexually abused in the previous 12 months. Much of the report seems to confirm the obvious, such as the fact that there are rape “hotspots” at certain prisons and inmates who were short, young, gay or female were more likely to be victimized than other inmates.

Having working in prisons around the country for almost thirty years, I have long been exasperated by the rate of prison rape which is often ignored by prison officials. If anything, the estimated rape rate appears low and may be due to the need for prisoners to admit to having been raped. We did not require a commission to tell us that many prisons have virtually eliminated the crime while other prisons allow rape to flourish. Like many congressional commissions, this group discovered the obvious and then recommended relatively mild reforms. The most obvious reform is to fire wardens who allow crime to flourish in their institutions, particularly rape. These wardens have extensive powers and staff. They are holding inmates in a controlled environment. They clearly have the ability — as do other wardens with low-rape institutions — to stop these crimes. They just do not see it as a priority. If you fired one warden for such rape rates, it would have a major impact on the ranks. Currently, some wardens and guards do not believe that anyone really cares if inmates rape each other.

If these prisons were small towns of 5000 with rampant rape rates, there would be calls for the removals of the local sheriffs and staff. Instead, the public treats this as a natural element to prison. It is not. I have been well-run prisons where such crimes are deterred and other prisons where it is clear that the staff could care less. This is one of the minimal standards that should apply to evaluation of both wardens and staff. If you cannot keep a prison population from committing rapes on a regular basis, you are either incompetent or callous or both. If Congress wants to stop prison rape, go to those prisons identified in this report (and well known to many lawyers and inmates) and replace their top staff. Congress should also follow the recommendation of the commission and set up long-term monitoring and reporting systems to keep track of such “hot spots” among our jails and prisons.

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16 thoughts on “Report: More than 60,000 Inmates are Raped Each Year”

  1. “According to the United States Department of Labor, a correction officer is responsible to “maintain order within the institution and enforce rules and regulations” and to “maintain security and inmate accountability to prevent disturbances, ASSAULTS, and escapes”

    mark stuiger,
    Much of what you say in your mis-aimed remarks at Ms. Burrows are innately true. However, I believe you are mixing the ideal of what prisons are to be, with the reality of what they are. I am not now, nor have I ever worked for the prison system and I come to damn it, not extol it. The problem, however, is not the fault of individual guards, no matter how much they may be derelict in their duty.

    The problem is a country that per capita imprisons more people than any major industrialized nation in the world. The problem is scummy politicians who see acting “tough on crime” as a mandate for higher office. The problem is a “War on Drugs” that has been less effective than the County’s Prohibition experiment, which itself was a dismal failure. The problem is a majority of the public, so frightened by demagogues and so entranced by a constant diet of police shows, that they are willing to desire the most draconian treatment of offenders. The problem is……….oh so many social ills that plague our country. The problem in the end is in all of us who participate in the sham we call the “American Dream” which breeeds and underclass without hope, lost in despair.

    Yes there are sociopathic individuals who are born criminals and yes we do have to contain them to protect society. Yet had we a society that was just and took care of its’ citizens, we would see plummeting crime rates and prisons that were administered humanely. The prison employees are just as much victims of the system as are the inmates. We get what we pay for and the secret truth is that many people feel the harsher prison is, the better it is. This is the revenge theory of jurisprudence. That they breed lifelong criminals, who might be redeemed is ignored in the pleasure of the sadistic cruelty of the system and the unspoken pleasure many get from that sadism.

  2. Dear Mr. Stuiger: I understand what you’re trying to say, but I think you misunderstood me. I did resign because I did not want to work for the corrupt prison system in this state.

  3. I don’t know if you know what the inmate to Corrections officer ratio is, but there is no way to stop this from happening. Its like stopping two inmates from fighting.

  4. In response to Carrie Burrows statement “I don’t know what the public expects prison personnel to do about this” (rape). This is what the public expects you to do, to be a Correction Officer is more than just showing up to collect a paycheck. According to the United States Department of Labor, a correction officer is responsible to “maintain order within the institution and enforce rules and regulations” and to “maintain security and inmate accountability to prevent disturbances, ASSAULTS, and escapes”. As you already know California State correction officers are the highest paid in the nation as are CA City County ( If for whatever reason; warden & prison administration apathy; overcrowding, etc. prevented you from carrying out you DUTY to prevent ASSUALTS you should of resigned immediately and perhaps become a receptionist whose duties are passive and confined to answering the phone. The problem of prison rape will never be dealt with effectively as long as the we entrust people with your what can I do attitude to enforce the laws we the public have entrusted in you. By your own admission you have failed to carry out the duties assigned to you and really should give the tax payers back every dollar we have paid you for a job you did not perform. Now whose the thief?

  5. Carrie:

    Referencing the federal prisons and the NYS prisons mostly, but it is cross board.
    I can see where ‘Administration’ might, in rare cases, believe an inmate over a guard. But am talking about the quasi-judicial administrative hearings before a disiplinary hearing officer to determine whether a prisoner committed a facility violation.
    Always, always, a guard’s testimony is regarded as more credible than a prisoner’s.
    As to the recording devices, there is no rule preventing individual facilities from permitting their guards from carrying recording devices. Your prison, like most, chose not to. But there are state-wide regulations (if not laws straightup) preventing that discretion to permit prisoners doing the same.

  6. Gary T.,

    I don’t know what state you’re from or anything about you. But I will tell you that when I was a guard in California we were not allowed to have recording devices and sometimes administration believed inmates over officers.

  7. Of course they would. They do now, it is a choice that the prison administration chooses.
    The standard of evidence in administrative infraction hearings is laughable, at least a prisoner could provide unrebuttable proof of what s/he claims.
    Currently a guard’s word is always given absolute credibility, if a prisoner doesn’t testify then he silence can be used against him, a prisoner goes to internal detention if he was attacked and was found to be the victim. Its a total freeforall.
    The official sentiment is, the prisoner is incarcerated and whether he is incarcerated in general population or in solitary confinement makes little difference to their sense of equity.
    The courts have held up this standard, and not found a liberty interest of where in the prison one is held, or what prison rules a prisoner is subject to.

  8. Some points here:

    Assaults and rapes normally considered high felonies in normal society, are treated as administrative infractions, like horseplay amongst rowdy teenagers.

    Stopping these activities would child’s play for any prison adminstration, putting such assailants away in supermax prisons would both take them out of commission and teach a deterrent to other aspiring inmates.

    Prison rules are internally hypocritical, and inconsistent. There are absolute rules against fighting in prison, and that includes protecting oneself against assault or rape. The rules actually say protecting oneself against assault is an adminstrative violation.

    Tape recording devices, or video devices are denied to prisoners for no good articulable reason, and yet as a prisoner “who said what” and when becomes a very crucial and even life saving necessity almost daily.
    If prisoners were empowered to have such devices they could protect themselves both from assailing prisoners and capricious guards.

  9. Wouldn’t the expectation of rape in prison constitute cruel and unusual punishment? Has that ever been explored in a court case? How does this go on without liability of some serious kind not falling on the State?

  10. The saddest thing about this story to me is the 20% to 30% of our citizenry who would read it and say: So what. If you can’t do the time then don’t do the crime. Thirty years of streaming
    no nothing Republican propaganda has coarsened us as a nation.

  11. Yep, low number.

    The Score:

    Statistical Accuracy – 0
    Avoided Paperwork – 1

  12. I agree with rafflaw. The number is low. The guards only let them complain if they complain loud enough. I guess this gives a new meaning to the Gangster of Love or not.

  13. With the amount of prisoners we have in our prisons, 60,000 sounds like a low number. The authorities have been turning their heads the other way for years on our prisons. Is being raped in prison part of the sentence handed out for their crime? A prisoner should be as safe in prison as he/she was on the street.

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