Yes, this has already been blogged, and by the incomparable ACLU, but the ACLU focused on the U.S. issue and chose not to talk about Abu Ghraib.
Here are the facts. The National Prison Rape Report came out on June 25th and it's very very disturbing.
Let's review what happened at Abu Ghraib. It was the rape and murder of minors. It's likely why President Obama refuses to release the photos, not only breaking a campaign promise but possibly even breaking the law. Even if you disagree with Obama's decision, as I do, you can understand it.
When it happened, it seemed impossible. But when I learned more, it seemed all too unavoidable
When I first heard about what had happened there, I didn't want it to be true. But since then, I've been learning more and more about what happens in U.S. prisons and about the career of Charles Graner. He, not Lynndie England, was truly responsible, I believe.
The Washington Post reported that he dragged his ex wife down a staircase by her hair, and that an inmate said he once put a razor blade in food. He wasn't alone. "Among the allegations over the years: Guards beat prisoners, spit in their food, showered them with racial epithets and wrote "KKK" in one beaten prisoner's blood."
The LA Times reported that he was sued twice by inmates.
he was sued twice during his tenure at SCI-Greene, first by an inmate who alleged that he and three other guards got him to eat potatoes with a razor blade inside, then by a prisoner who alleged that a group of guards made him stand on one foot while handcuffed and tripped him. However, that prisoner was found to have sued too late, and the other inmate completed his sentence and vanished. There never was a hearing on whether Chuck Graner was a guard who stepped over the line.
You might argue that he was chosen to build Abu Ghraib by sadistic GOP racists but I'm arguing that our prison system was already Abu Ghraib and we simply exported it to Iraq.
The report has many findings, but I'd like to point to finding number 7, about the rape of minors:
"Juveniles in confinement are much more likely than incarcerated adults to be sexually abused, and they are particularly at risk when confined with adults," the report said.
"Rates of sexual abuse appear to be much higher for confined youth than they are for adult prisoners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the rate of sexual abuse in adult facilities, based only on substantiated allegations captured in facility records, was 2.91 per 1,000 incarcerated prisoners in 2006. The parallel rate in juvenile facilities was more than five times greater: 16.8 per 1,000. The actual extent of sexual abuse in residential facilities is still unknown."
On BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow found most upsetting the finding that staff commit more rapes than inmates.
Such rape appears to be tolerated. "A 50-year-old man who had served as a youth probation officer for 11 years with the Oregon Youth Authority was convicted of sexually abusing boys in his care, including a 14-year-old mentally disabled boy with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Victims and their families had complained for years about this officer, but officials took no action," the report said.
Girls are at greater risk than boys. We've known this for some time. One Kossack reported in 2004 that 13 year old girls were shackled for weeks at a time in a prison in Mississippi. Of course there was rape too.
Progressives are tackling this issue. Senator James Webb is on the case, as is the ACLU. What they are doing is important.
I wrote this diary because I feel that even though we know what happens in U.S. prisons, too many people are refusing to make the connection between our prison system and our Abu Graib shame.
Adding the relevant notes on guards abusing inmates:
Extrapolated to the national prison population, an estimated 60,500 State and Federal prisoners were sexually abused during that 12-month period.
More prisoners reported abuse by staff than abuse by other prisoners: 2.9 percent of respondents compared with about 2 percent. (Some prisoners reported abuse by other inmates and staff.)
That's an average of 165 rapes per day, about 60 percent of which are committed by guards.
Here's finding number 1:
Protecting prisoners from sexual abuse remains a challenge in correctional facilities across the country. Too often, in what should be secure environments, men, women, and children are raped or abused by other incarcerated individuals and corrections staff.
All of the other findings are disturbing too.
Update August 29, 2010
SCRANTON, Pa. – If his diary and witness accounts are to be believed, Nicholas Pinto endured months of physical, sexual and mental abuse in prison. Guards roughed him up, made him stand naked in a cold cell for hours at a time, and taunted him relentlessly. A fellow inmate raped him night after night, beat him when he resisted, and stole his possessions.