«ABSTRACT THE SOCIAL INJUSTICE OF PRISON RAPE: A HISTORICAL ANALYSIS By Francy Lynn Jenko August 2010 The purpose of this review is to gain a better ...»
Other applicable core values in social work include acceptance, empathy, objectivity, and avoiding judging or blaming clients (NASW, 2008). There is an expectation that social workers build on clients' strengths and recognize clients' capacities for growth. Considering the importance of the strengths perspective in the social work model, it is appropriate that social workers work with inmates to help them succeed. Rehabilitation appears to fit the social work model best when working with individuals serving sentences in detention facilities as opposed to punitive environments that perpetuate violence. Therefore, rehabilitation should be the primary concern of prison administrators, prison staff, social workers, and society at large.
Tolerating or overlooking rape in detention facilities is in direct opposition to the goal of rehabilitation. Social workers are in a position of expertise in the area of studying behaviors at various levels and are also trained to look at the person in his or her environment. With such qualities, social workers generally have enriched backgrounds, which make them well suited to study this type of social problem and then consult on methods to improve the quality of life for countless prisoners who can be spared the trauma of rape while incarcerated.
Finally, it is crucial for all social work professionals to become educated about issues that exploit the human value of any individual or group. Challenging social injustice, respecting the inherent dignity and worth of people, helping people in need, and addressing social problems are additional values rooted in the practice of social work (NASW, 2008). Based on the aforementioned principles, it is evident that the issue of prison rape is relevant to the social work profession.
This review focuses on rape in detention facilities. Provided in this review are the current representations of confinement, the prevalence of rape in detention, inconsistencies in prevalence rates found in research, and characteristics of both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse in prison settings. Furthermore, the role of ethnicity, gang involvement, staff attitudes, and mental health factors are considered. Additionally, collective conditions of incarceration that add to the incident of prison rape are examined.
Numerous academic studies are reviewed to elaborate on systemic issues including overcrowding, ineffective classification methods, the code of silence, and poor responses of prison staff following rape. The review also shows how these factors may lead to an atmosphere of fear, violence, and sexual assault found in detention facilities across America. Lastly, the effects of rape on survivors and communities are discussed.
The United States incarcerates a larger portion of its population than any other country in the world (SPR, 2006). Harrison and Beck (2004) reported that at the end of 2003 more than 2 million U.S. adults were incarcerated in federal and state prisons and local jails, with nearly 1.5 million inmates being housed in federal and state prisons.
Golden (2008) estimated that 1 out of every 100 people in this country lives behind bars.
Men are significantly represented within the prison population. Ninety-three percent of U.S. inmates are male (Harrison & Beck, 2004). Golden reported that 1 in every 30 men between the ages of 24 and 35 are confined, while 1 in every 9 Black men the same age is imprisoned. Between 1980 and 1999 the prison population quadrupled (Pastore & Maguire, 2007), and more than 500,000 prisoners were incarcerated on drug charges (Walmsley, 2005). Additionally, research indicated that over half the inmates in state prisons were serving time for non-violent offenses (English & Heil, 2005).
The extent of prison abuse is still not known, but it is thought to be higher than research estimates (Cotton & Groth, 1982; Dumond, 2003; Eigenberg, 2000). Rates fluctuate across studies depending on definitions and methods used as well as the type of prison examined (Saum, Surratt, Inciardi, & Bennett, 1995). Depending on which studies are employed, rates range from less than 1% to 21% (Davis, 1968; Gaes & Goldberg, 2004; Jones & Pratt, 2008; Lockwood, 1980; Moss, Hosford, & Anderson, 1979; Nacci & Kane, 1983; Saum et al., 1995; Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 2000;
Struckman-Johnson, Struckman-Johnson, Rucker, Bumby, & Donaldson, 1996; Wooden & Parker, 1982).
In an earlier study by Davis (1968), sexual abuse in Philadelphia jail systems was analyzed. Over 3,000 inmates and 561 custodial staff were interviewed and reviews of official records were conducted. It was determined that close to 3% of male inmates were sexually assaulted and that close to 2,000 of 60,000 men were assaulted over a 26month period. Davis noted that only 5% of the total inmate population was included in the study and thus the findings were only a glimpse into the extent and severity of the problem. Several other studies found similarly low prevalence rates (Hensley et al., 2003; Lockwood, 1980; Moss et al., 1979; Nacci & Kane, 1983; Saum et al., 1995).
Lockwood (1980) and Nacci and Kane (1983) considered whether inmates were the targets of other kinds of sexual aggression other than rape. Lockwood studied sexual coercion in a New York state prison, interviewing close to 100 inmates. It was determined that 28% of inmates were targets of sexual aggression and 1.3% had been raped. Nacci and Kane found comparable results, reporting that close to 10% of inmates had been targeted, but less than 1% reported having been raped. Consequently, rates are dependent on how loosely researchers define rape, whether they observe sexual aggression, and likely what inmates feel least ashamed about sharing. Also, inmates may feel less ashamed to report attempted assault than to report completed rape.
Struckman-Johnson et al. (1996) focused on low report rates of sexual abuse in prisons, the effects of rape on inmates, prevalence rates, and participation by staff in the occurrence of sexual abuse in confinement. They found that of the 474 men studied, 101 men reported sexual coercion during incarceration, 51 of these 101 inmates reported forced anal intercourse perpetrated by one or more assailants. Further, close to 25% of prisoners experienced sexual pressuring or attempted sexual assault during confinement (Struckman-Johnson et al., 1996). However, Struckman-Johnson et al. reported that only 10% of participants in their study were the subjects of a completed rape at least once during incarceration.
Struckman-Johnson and Struckman-Johnson (2000) replicated their 1996 study, surveying 1,788 male inmates and 475 correctional staff. Twenty-one percent of the inmates surveyed reported at least one episode of forced or pressured sexual contact while incarcerated. Struckman-Johnson and Struckman-Johnson (2000) concluded that 1 in every 5 men would be a victim of rape behind bars. Beck and Harrison (2007) reported that of the estimated 60,500 inmates studied, 4.5% of them experienced unwanted sexual attention ranging from touching to rape. Furthermore, the 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report indicated that more than 6,500 official allegations of prison sexual abuse were reported in the year 2006 alone (Beck & Harrison, 2006).
The rates found in women's facilities vary depending on the facility. However, some statistics suggest that 1 in 4 female inmates is at risk of sexual abuse while incarcerated (Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 2002). Kassebaum (1972) studied consensual sex in female institutions and concluded that female inmates are sexually exploited by other inmates, as well as by staff. In 1996, the Human Rights Watch reported that male guards in several state prisons were sexually abusing female inmates (Hensley, Struckman-Johnson, & Eigenberg, 2000). According to the data reported by SPR (2006), staff and corrections officials assaulted women at a higher rate (74%) than male inmates assaulted fellow inmates (54%). Struckman-Johnson and Struckman-Johnson (2000) found that 0% to 27% of the 263 female inmates questioned had been sexually coerced. Rape rates ranged from 0% to 3%. However, their report differed from the Human Rights Watch Report in that they found close to half the perpetrators were other female inmates, not staff.
Once victimized, many rape survivors are targets of future sexual assault (Banbury, 2004; Castle, Hensley, & Tewksbury, 2002; Dumond, 2003; Man & Cronan, 2002; Mariner, 2001; Wooden & Parker, 1982). Struckman-Johnson and StruckmanJohnson (2006) found that nearly 75% of male and 57% of female prison rape survivors reported being abused more than once, and 30% of these survivors endured six or more assaults. Devastatingly, some survivors reported up to 100 assaults in a single year (Struckman-Johnson et al., 1996). These findings illustrate an extensive breakdown in the prison system to preserve the basic human rights of prisoners (NPREC, 2009).
Although there are disparities between prevalence rates resulting from different methodologies, it has been commonly concluded that sexual coercion rates range from 14% to 22% and rape rates are near 12% (English & Heil, 2005; Hensley et al., 2000;
Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 2000). Based on a review of rigorous and methodologically sound studies of prison inmates, Jones and Pratt (2008) estimated the overall rate of prison sexual victimization to be 20%. Overall, available statistics should be valued as conservative at best, due to problems with rape documentation and underreporting of inmate rape, the nature and conditions of prisons, which contribute to rape and the tolerance of rape, inmate codes that prevent reporting, and staff attitudes that might influence under-reporting (Jones & Pratt, 2008).
Kaufman (2008) suggested a few obstacles that interfere with prevalence studies.
Victims may respond at a low rate due to embarrassment or fear of reprisal and officials often have a difficult time verifying reports made by inmates, which may contribute to unsubstantiated incidents that are not included in prevalence rates. Also, the lack of common terminology used to define sexual abuse in prison was indicated. Moreover, disparities between studies may be attributed to the different approaches of collecting data. Societal values and perceptions regarding the prison population also may pose a barrier to obtaining accurate prevalence rates (Dumond, 2003; Saum et al., 1995).
English and Heil (2005) found that individuals interviewed face-to-face generally reported less abuse than those who were anonymously surveyed. They concluded that this was likely due to the shame associated with rape and the guilt many victims feel following a violation (English & Heil, 2005).
Jones and Pratt (2008) analyzed varying methodological approaches that produced an array of prevalence rates. They suggested that studies that focus on completed rapes tend to reveal low prevalence rates. Studies that assess for forms of sexual coercion reveal higher rates. The method of data collection plays a significant role in prevalence rates as well. While self-administered questionnaires and face-to-face interviews typically elicit higher participation rates than anonymous surveys, they may contribute to under-reporting as anonymous surveys often uncover higher prevalence rates (Jones & Pratt, 2008).
Additionally, the selections of prison sites influence prevalence rates (Jones & Pratt, 2008). Studies that evaluate inmates from single facilities reveal lower prevalence rates compared to studies that assess inmates at multiple sites. However, Jones and Pratt (2008) explained how there is often overlap in methodological approaches. Therefore, it should not be determined that single-site approaches are the sole cause of lower prevalence rates. Further, the lack of differentiation between prevalence rates and incidence rates in the literature causes highly anecdotal findings (Jones & Pratt, 2008).
Prevalence rates refer to the number of prison residents who have ever had a sexual assault experience, where incidence rates refer to the number of new cases. Overall, the methodology and attitudes regarding sex in prison affect the prevalence rates found by
Certain characteristics place inmates at a heightened risk for sexual cruelty while in detention. Individuals most at risk are the young and criminally inexperienced, mentally ill or developmentally delayed, gay or transgender persons, those held in immigrant detention centers, those who are not gang affiliated, and individuals who are not streetwise (Bowker, 1980; Dumond & Dumond, 2007; English & Heil, 2005;
Hensley, Koscheski, & Tewksbury, 2005; Mariner, 2001). Those who are small and weak, persons who are disliked by staff or other inmates, individuals who have already been victimized, those who have broken the code of silence, and non-violent first time offenders are also at an increased risk of abuse (Donaldson, 1993).
Austin, Fabelo, Gunter, and McGinnis (2006) conducted a study to determine methods to help reduce sexual assault across all correctional systems. Of particular focus was determining which inmates were at greatest risk for abuse. The study was conducted in the Texas prison system from 2002 to 2005. They found several dynamics that increased the likeliness for abuse to occur. Of the substantiated cases, 60% involved White inmates and 12% were mentally ill; they also found that victims were on average 3 years younger than their perpetrators (Austin et al., 2006).
Vulnerable Groups Gay and transgender inmates may be the most violated group in custody (SPR, 2006). Due to reckless classification systems, vulnerable inmates are often housed with likely perpetrators, which place gay and transgender populations at risk for abuse.
Further, these inmates are often perceived and portrayed as willing victims (SPR, 2006).
According to Jenness et al. (2007), transgender inmates are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated compared to non-transgender inmates. The transgender inmates studied were assaulted at a rate of 4.4% to 59%. Additionally, nearly 67% of the non-heterosexual inmates reported sexual assault, compared to only 2% of the heterosexual inmates (Jenness et al., 2007).