«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 ...»
Prison rape contributes to the spread of diseases, an increased risk of committing future crime on the part of the victim, increased violence and homicide against staff and inmates, and interracial tension (English & Heil, 2005; Okie, 2007). Individuals who perpetrate sexual abuse in prison typically came in to prison more violent and more dangerous than the general population (Man & Cronan, 2001). According to Heil, Ahlmeyer, Harrison, and English (2002), over half of institutionalized offenders were arrested for violent crimes within 12 months following their release. These considerable dangers to the public demonstrate why it is necessary to impose consequences for perpetrators who commit sexually violent crimes while in prison. Prosecution of prison rape would extend prison sentences and keep dangerous individuals off the streets.
Accurately assessing the incidence and prevalence of prison rape and other forms of sexual assault in corrections facilities is a complex process. Partly due to contradictory findings implicated by research (Jenness et al., 2007), rates of sexual violence in detention settings fluctuate across studies. Varying definitions and methods used also contribute to this fluctuation. Kunselman et al. (2002) suggested that the biggest problem affecting the validity of studies is not the ever-changing definitions of prison rape, but the lack of reporting rape in prison. Some research suggests that sexual victimization in prison is rare (Fleisher & Krienert, 2006; Fuller & Orsagh, 1977;
Lockwood, 1980; Moss et al., 1979). However, other studies concluded that prison sexual violence occurs quite frequently (Struckman-Johnson et al., 1996; Weiss & Friar, 1974; Wooden & Parker, 1982).
Several studies found sexual coercion rates in detention to range from 14-22% and rape rates near 12% (Hensley et al., 2000; Struckman-Johnson & StruckmanJohnson, 2000). Gaes and Goldberg (2004) estimated prevalence rates ranging from 0% to 40%. The PREA (2003) conservatively reported that 13% of inmates experience sexual assault in correctional facilities in the United States. Studies considered the most rigorous and methodologically sound, on average, report a 20% prevalence rate of sexual violence (Jones & Pratt, 2008).
Prison rape survivors are at a serious risk for suffering considerable mental health problems and physical ailments. Prison rape also contributes to an increased risk of crime in communities, increased violence inside prisons, increased interracial tension, and can directly lead individuals to commit suicide. In addition, sexual assault in confinement is both a public health issue and a human rights violation. Further, prison rape has the potential to result in the proliferation of HIV and other diseases among inmates and society. Overall, prison rape threatens public health in both prisons and communities (Gaes & Goldberg, 2004; Staples, 2004).
Individuals most at risk are the young and inexperienced, mentally ill and impaired, gay or transgender persons, immigrant detainees, small and weak prisoners, individuals who have already been victimized, those who have broken the code of silence, and non-violent first time offenders. Additionally, inmates are often raped more than once during incarceration. Some survivors of prison rape reported numerous rapes by numerous assailants (Bowker, 1980; Donaldson, 1993; Dumond & Dumond, 2007;
English & Heil, 2005; Mariner, 2001).
Among the collective conditions of incarceration that contribute to prison rape overcrowding, lack of proper inmate classification systems, understaffing, and a pervasive code of silence by inmates and guards are indicated (Berk et al., 2006; English & Heil, 2005; Hensley, 2002; Kupers, 1996; Mariner 2001; Nacci & Kane, 1982;
Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 2000). Although racial composition does appear to be a component in prison rape it is not a casual factor. Prison hierarchies, gangs, politics, and the prison economy all contribute to prison rape. Staff attitudes and responses to prison rape also shape the degree of sexual abuse in detention. Moreover, rape myths, cultural biases, and negative societal views contribute to a hostile environment where rape is tolerated. However, the most important aspect affecting the prevalence of prison rape is the correctional culture itself.
A historical analysis of the most recent and influential legislation, PREA, and its proposed objectives and findings was conducted for this review. This analysis was positioned in the context of historical legislation and focused on scholarly research studies that highlighted factors contributing to sexual violence in detention facilities across America. Research on the impact of PREA, following its passing in 2003, was also of interest. Primary and secondary sources were drawn upon to determine how policies have evolved to eliminate prison rape and to determine to what extent PREA has stimulated practice change.
This historical analysis used these sources to portray a thorough examination of the incidence of rape in detention settings from 1934 to the passing of PREA in 2003.
Current studies resulting from PREA were also utilized. Primary sources consisted of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, Farmer v. Brennan in 1994, The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, and other legislation that affect the prison population. Secondary sources included law reviews, professional journals, and academic articles. The review integrated research conducted by advocacy organizations such as Just Detention International and Human Rights Watch. Academic books related to the history of prison sexual violence were incorporated as well. Lastly, the findings of PREA were thoroughly
Since much of the early research was anecdotal and there were no national studies conducted, it is important to recognize that early research on sexual abuse in detention facilities should not be generalized. Therefore, limitations to this historical analysis include unreliable and inconsistent research. Jones and Pratt (2008) suggested that the body of literature on the prevalence of sexual violence in prisons has been largely composed of methodologically questionable studies. Further, research concerning prison sexual victimization has been scanty and insufficient.
From a cultural perspective and historical context, prison sex has been considered perverse (Kunzel, 2002). Mental health professionals considered homosexual behavior to be a mental disorder until the 1970s (2nd ed.; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-II]; American Psychiatric Association, 1968). Thus, understanding sexuality in prison settings traditionally may have been affected by the social and cultural construction of gay and lesbian relationships in society. Moreover, there was little empirically validated research conducted on this topic in the early 1900s (Hensley et al., 2000). Lastly, the view of this topic by society and some academics as offensive has limited research (Tewksbury & West, 2000) and consequently research may be less accessible through academic channels.
The examination employed in this review was a historical analysis. The goal was to determine common dynamics correlated with the incidence of prison rape. Another objective was to determine how the prison subculture and societal perceptions regarding prison sexual violence shape the event of such violence. Lastly, this examination seeks to emphasize how the recognition of the extent of sexual abuse in detention has brought forth legislation to amend current systemic problems contributing to this social injustice.
This chapter examines conventional ideologies of prison rape and its epidemiology. The perception of early research concerning prison sexual violence is discussed, as are the political dynamics that affect prison violence. The information presented in this chapter focuses on common assumptions regarding sexuality in prison.
Further, significant policies and legislation and their influence in bringing awareness to prison rape and support for social change, along with policy responses regarding inmate sexual assault are highlighted. Noteworthy agencies working to end prison rape and prevention models that have been successfully implemented, both prior to and following PREA, are also discussed. Additionally, an in-depth description of PREA is provided.
Lastly, the objectives of PREA are analyzed.
Sex among prisoners has likely been occurring since the dawn of American prisons (Clemmer, 1940; Kunzel, 2008). Initial research described sex in prison as inmates resorting to homosexual sex because of the deprivations associated with confinement (Tewksbury, 1989). Therefore, sex in prison was typically not recognized as assaultive or coercive. Since both perpetrators and victims were viewed as situational homosexuals (Eigenberg, 1992), the subject of prison rape was traditionally examined in the correctional literature on homosexuality. In addition, much of the early interest on prison sexuality was based on the AIDS epidemic and the spread of the disease behind prison walls (Tewksbury & West, 2000). It was not until the 1980s that research became more specific, informed, and accurate (Alarid, 2000a, 2000b; Dumond, 2003; Jones & Pratt, 2008). More current literature has focused on the violence intrinsic to prison sexual assault and on establishing accurate prevalence rates (Eigenberg, 2000).
From the mid-70s to the early 80s several researchers studied prison rape (Cotton & Groth, 1982; Ibrahim, 1974; Lockwood 1980; Nacci & Kane, 1983; Scacco, 1975;
Weiss & Friar, 1974; Wooden & Parker, 1982). These early accounts of inmate sexual violence focused primarily on inmate hierarchies, including age and level of criminality.
In the 1960s and 1970s the focus shifted to Black male criminality and hyper-sexuality (Kunzel, 2002). Jones and Pratt (2008) explained that there was little distinction between perpetrators and their victims, as both were viewed as participating in homosexual behavior. As a result, the line between victimization and consensual sex was distorted in much of the early research (Jones & Pratt, 2008).
The Prison Environment According to Hensley (2002), relatively few studies have focused on the pains of imprisonment. Sykes (1958) described these pains as the deprivation of liberty, goods and services, autonomy, security, and heterosexual relationships. Loss of liberty, as examined by Sykes, was explained as an inmate being confined by the institution and then again within the institution. Hensley (2002) reported on inmates' loss of autonomy and suggested that the objectives of incarceration are to strip prisoners of their individuality and to dehumanize them. According to Foucault (1975), the two objectives of prison were to strip individuals of their freedom and to reform them.
Prison environments are designed to deprive inmates of basic liberties. It is thought that such an environment contributes to the motivation for prison rape (Prichard, 2000). Hensley (2002) described the phenomenon of inmates negatively influencing other inmates in prison and deepening pre-existing criminal behavior as "prisonization."
This results in criminality being enforced in prisons and inmates learning from one another how to become hardened criminals.
There are two models attempting to determine the basis of the social system and subculture of inmates found in the prison environment. The deprivation model suggests that inmates adopt the prevalent values of the inmate culture in an effort to reclaim their self-worth and alleviate the deprivations of confinement (Sykes, 1958; Thomas, Petersen, & Zingraff, 1977). The importation model emphasizes how inmates carry over their values and lifestyles from their communities to the inmate social system, creating their own power structure. Hence, one theory suggests that inmates bring an outside culture of violence and criminality into the prison setting, which contributes to rape. The other suggests that the lack of self-government and control allotted to inmates, inherent to institutionalism, results in behaviors aimed at regaining power, which promote rape (Irwin, 2005).
Situational Sex and Deprivation of Heterosexual Outlets Early research deemed the sexual activities of inmates to be exclusively consensual or purely situational (Fishman, 1934; Giallombardo, 1966; Heffernan, 1972;
Ibrahim, 1974; Koscheski, Hensley, Wright, & Tewksbury, 2002; Nacci & Kane, 1983;
Propper, 1981; Sagarin, 1976; Toch et al., 1989; Ward & Kassebaum, 1965; Wooden & Parker, 1982). The assumption was that inmates were deprived of heterosexual gratification and thus had situational sex with members of the same sex to lessen the deprivation during their sentences (Eigenberg, 1992). Hensley et al. (2000) suggested that studies intended to focus on homosexual sex relations in prison also highlighted the occurrence of rape and prostitution. Thus, homosexual behavior among inmates was not necessarily consensual (Hensley et al., 2000).
Fishman (1934), a federal prison inspector, although studying homosexual behavior in male detention facilities, reported on coercive sex. Fishman was one of the first individuals to conduct reports on coercive sex in prison concluding that many sexual predators used threats, bribes, and deception to pressure young boys and men into homosexuality. He also suggested that the prison code of silence prevented inmates from reporting sexual assault.
Davis (1968) carried out the earliest study on the prevalence of rape in prison in the late 1960s and was one of the first researchers to acknowledge that prison rape was often redefined as homosexuality and treated like sex rather than aggressive behavior.
Eigenberg (1992) stated that both rapists and victims were portrayed in early research as homosexuals responding to sexual deprivation. Jones and Pratt (2008) pointed out that due to this perception of prison sex there was little distinction, if any, between sexual victimization and consensual homosexual sex. Therefore, studies that defined all homosexual behavior in prison to be situational and consensual and those that did not distinguish between perpetrators and victims, inaccurately represented prison sexuality.