While debate continues over how common on-campus rape is, Michael Brendan Dougherty highlights another kind of rape problem: those that occur in prisons. According to statistics collected by the Bureau of Justice, around 20,000 Americans in prisons reported being sexually abused in 2011. More:
In prison, men may become the victim of repeated gang rapes. Prisoners can be locked into cellswith the men who prey on them. Some live under the constant threat of sexual assault for decades. Their efforts to report their rape are ignored or even punished, both by prison personnel and an inmate culture that destroys “snitches.” The threat of rape is so pervasive it causes some inmates to “consent” to sex with certain prisoners or officers as a way of avoiding rape by others.
Acceptance of prison rape is a stinking corruption. No conception of justice can include plunging criminals into an anarchic world of sexual terror. And obviously it thwarts any possibility of a rehabilitative justice that aims to restore criminals to lawful society. Inmates are not improved or better integrated into society through physical and psychological torture.
The prison rape problem is one more reason to back serious reforms to the American penal system. Fortunately, reforms of that sort have increasingly powerful coalitions behind them—and appear to be making progress. The number if inmates has dropped nationwide in recent years, as crime rates have fallen, politicians have pushed for reduced sentencing times, and states have done a better job managing the penal system. With the help of Christian backers, even California is inching towards reform. National figures like Rand Paul have taken it up as a cause. However, the situation in many prisons remains bad and there is a lot of work still to do. Read the whole thing to be reminded of how desperately that work is needed.