by Gary Hunter
Sexual assault, rape, indecency, deviance. These terms represent reprehensible behavior in our society. They also represent recurring themes in our nationís prisons Ė not only by prisoners, but also by guards and other staff members.
PLNís August 2006 cover story, Guards Rape of Prisoners Rampant, No Solution in Sight, profiled examples of sexual abuse by prison guards and other employees in 26 states. Since that time the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has issued proposed standards to reduce sexual abuse behind bars, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics has released reports on sexual victimization in our nationís prisons and jails. The latter reports found that over 60% of allegations of sexual abuse involved staff members rather than other prisoners.
What has not changed in the past several years is the continued rape and sexual exploitation of prisoners by prison and jail employees who are supposed to ensure their safety. All 50 states have enacted laws criminalizing sex between prisoners and prison staff; thus, employees who engage in sexual misconduct can no longer claim consent as a defense.
Due to the nature of prisons as ďtotal institutions,Ē it is impossible for prisoners to voluntarily consent to sexual advances by staff members who exert complete control over their lives Ė and in some cases over their release from prison.
Past issues of PLN have pushed this significant problem to the forefront. We would like to report that exposure of this issue has eased the problem. It hasnít. We would like to say our continued coverage on this subject has deterred sexual abuse by prison staff. It didnít.
Prison and jail employees are more out of control than ever. From state to state, north to south, east to west, sexual misconduct by guards and other staff members continues to weave its way through the fabric of our nationís prisons. A common thread of rape, debauchery and even sexual torture is present in detention facilities nationwide.
This time we bring you recent reports from 39 states, which constitute only a fraction of the tragic truth about rape and sexual abuse by prison and jail workers. Indeed, it would easily be possible to publish a monthly magazine consisting of nothing but substantiated reports of the sexual assault of prisoners by their captors. It also illustrates the shortcomings of the PREA which contains no real enforcement mechanism to stop or deter sexual assaults, merely the collection of data self reported by the agencies holding the prisoners. But one result is we may now have slightly better data than we did before in a central location.