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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.

Originally posted to agoldnyc on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:19 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place." -- Mandela

    by agoldnyc on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:19:12 PM PDT

  •  Okay, I have one major problem with your (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathguy, ppl can fly

    argument in this diary.

    You're trying to compare Abu Ghraib institutionalized prison-rape, where it was GUARDS who carried out these offenses, to the vast majority of prison rapes domestically that are carried out inmate(s) on inmate.

    Not that we shouldn't try to improve prison conditions in both places (in Guantanamo at least until it is closed for good), but there is a very big difference between the two different scenarios.

    "Ambrose...Just stop it now ! Your intellect is just to overpowering and opressive for us average bloggers"

    by AmbroseBurnside on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:30:10 PM PDT

    •  no, it's guards (11+ / 0-)

      the report says the majority of rapes in prisons are carried out by guards, as does this diary.

      "Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place." -- Mandela

      by agoldnyc on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:33:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I honestly don't buy it, though. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nathguy, ppl can fly, siduri, blackjackal

        You don't think prisoners would have a reason to lie about "abusive guards" on an anonymous survey?

        "Ambrose...Just stop it now ! Your intellect is just to overpowering and opressive for us average bloggers"

        by AmbroseBurnside on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:35:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I kind of doubt most guards (1+ / 2-)
          Recommended by:
          Hidden by:
          reflectionsv37, imabluemerkin

          want to get some ass off a skanky prisoner.

          George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

          by nathguy on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:41:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  First think, then type. (10+ / 0-)

            Wow, that's a whole lot of ignorance you have packed into that tiny sentence.

            The reality is that rape-- in prison or otherwise-- is almost always a crime of power, not sex.

            The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

            by kingubu on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:54:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The guards have plenty of power (0+ / 0-)

              they can lock you down, do searches, beat prissoners,,,,

              A cavity search is plenty of dominance.

              If a guard wants ass and power they can rape the prisoners wives in return
              for bringing in money or drugs

              George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

              by nathguy on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:13:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Rape is not about "getting some ass" (6+ / 0-)

            It's about control and power.

          •  Really? (4+ / 0-)

            Why do you think someone would be attracted to that position in the first place? Most guards, if not involved in illegal smuggling operations (drugs, alchol,tobacco,sex etc) have got some other gig whether profit based or personal gratification. What goes on in prison would confound and shock you. Who's running the show? Why the Department of Corruption!

            e-do-hi, a-li-s-da-yv-di hi-nv-wa-ga

            by winchelenator on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:57:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  wow not true at all (4+ / 0-)

              i say that as the wife of a retired correctional officer.

              there's a lot of wrong information in this diary and in your comment.

              NOT most. you are dead wrong

              Why do you think someone would be attracted to that position in the first place? Most guards, if not involved in illegal smuggling operations (drugs, alchol,tobacco,sex etc) have got some other gig whether profit based or personal gratification.

              My husband was attracted to it b/c he was married with two young children and his new wife;s family's breadwinner had just been hurt in a roofing accident and couldnt work.

              The truth is MOST corrections officers are decent folks. Some are assholes. Some are criminals. the culture inside a prison is something you dont know about and your blanket statement about MOST correction officers being criminals or shady characters is ludicrous and insulting to literally hundreds of thousands who serve honorably every day.

              My perspective is that these is a definite difference between those who are privately employed and those that are state or county employed.  The private corrections institutions have a different standard and (IMO) a different person in the job. My husband was a sworn state (and later) county employee who had good ay, great bennies and a very decent retirement plan (all you have to do is live to get to it). I do think that makes a difference as well but  overall please reconsider your "ideas" about who correction officers are b/c its wrong.

          •  It's the attitudes of people... (4+ / 0-)

            like you that allow this to go on indefinitely. That skanky prisoner you talk of might have been an otherwise law abiding citizen who was sentenced to prison for a non violent drug offense. But to people like you he's just a "skanky prisoner". Better hope you don't end up in jail someday. Somebody might refer to you the same way and not give a damn what happens to you. In the meantime, have a donut and think about it!

            Attention Waxman Staffers! Clean up on aisle 1600! huttotex 3/27/07

            by reflectionsv37 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:11:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  A survey which... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ranting Roland, Alec82, FarWestGirl

          would cause no negative repercussions to unamed guards?

          Whats the motivation?

          Crush the Horror.

          by JesseCW on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:44:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The majority of reported rapes (13+ / 0-)

        and it's very important to keep in mind that the vast majority of rape in prisons is never reported.

        That said, the rate of substantiated rape by guards is staggering.

        Crush the Horror.

        by JesseCW on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:36:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well if you report getting raped, (4+ / 0-)

          you'll probably get shanked.  So most people think it's better to stay alive.

          "Ambrose...Just stop it now ! Your intellect is just to overpowering and opressive for us average bloggers"

          by AmbroseBurnside on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:46:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ppl can fly, pstoller78

            Great system we have here. One would think prison should be one of the safest places, instead people are tortured and abused everyday and very few give a damn. And it's only getting worse with the for profit prisons. This shit needs to stop!

            Attention Waxman Staffers! Clean up on aisle 1600! huttotex 3/27/07

            by reflectionsv37 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:14:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  How do you stop it, though? (0+ / 0-)

              The safest way would be to put EVERYONE in solitary confinement.  That would cut down on the gang violence, race wars, etc.  Obviously we can't do that, though.  Inmates get horny, and they take that out on other inmates.

              "Ambrose...Just stop it now ! Your intellect is just to overpowering and opressive for us average bloggers"

              by AmbroseBurnside on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:25:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, inmates get horny and pack a sock full of (3+ / 0-)

                mayonaise and go to town.

                Inmates want to feel powerfull, they rape somebody.

                Step one is blindingly obvious - seperate those guilty of violent crimes from those guilty of non-violent crimes.

                Step two is similar, seperate pools for first time and repeat offenders in both categories.

                Now we've got four basic categories.  Lowest risk are obviously first-time non violent offenders, highest are repeat violent offenders.

                Next, treat every rape or other assualt exactly as it would be treated on the outside, instead of suffering from the delusion that Prisoners somehow deserve it.

                Yes, that means trained detectives inside instead of CO's pretending they know forensics.

                Now we get to the final category - those who commit violent crimes on the inside.  Throw them in Max, but that still doesn't mean solitary.

                Lastly, provide single-person cells and let no inmate go unsupervised outside of their cell for any period of time.

                Jails are simpler than prisons - you just need adequate man-power and single-person cells.  No holding tanks.

                Crush the Horror.

                by JesseCW on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:51:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Probably unsafe to report some rapes (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Garrett, Nick Lento

          The guards apparently can get away with it by virtue of their position, so it may be merely pointless reporting rapes committed by them. The really psycho ones you might want to think twice, but most of the guards are probably not psycho but opportunists in a real-life Milgram experiment situation.

          But, on the other hand, it may be much more dangerous reporting rapes committed by other prisoners, since that may be pissing off people who have little to lose and a need to maintain a high level of violence and threat to maintain their place in the pecking order. And you're going outside that pecking order by reporting the rape, rather than accepting your miserable place in it, so if anything the solidarity factor is playing against you. So I would guess that rape by prisoners will be way underreported.

          What made Abu Ghraib special is that so much of the activity was given sanction by policy—by some sadistic coward like Cheney or Rumsfeld actually laying out a plan to encourage it. It would be interesting to find out how many correctional systems have similar policies being implemented by similar (if lower level) sadists with fancy job titles and thugs in three piece suits.

          Prisons, like nursing homes, like mental hospitals, like much of the court system, like reform schools, are just another example of how we try to wish away the unpleasant aspects of life and of dealing with less than thrilling fellow human beings—if we can hide them away, out of sight, then we're so much happier, even when it creates a festering wound in society and ruins countless lives. It's the kind of moral cowardice that the Moral Majority types would never think of even going near.

    •  My Neighbor's son served at Abu Ghraib (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, FarWestGirl

      With a number of California National Guard members who were, in their civilian lives, prison guards.


  •  Hellhole (10+ / 0-)

    That's the title of an essay in The New Yorker by one of my favorite writers and thinkers - Atul Gawande

    He describes the mental torture of isolation and solitary confinement. He asks the question:

    The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?

  •  Let us not forget Ivan "Chip" Frederick II (13+ / 0-)

    Also a convicted guard in the Abu Ghraib horror.

    The highest-ranking convicted American servicemember, Frederick was a corrections officer at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, VA.

  •  Thank you for posting on this... (7+ / 0-)

    ...can't be diaried often enough.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:54:13 PM PDT

  •  Too many people think prison rape is just a (10+ / 0-)

    big funny joke. Earlier I was looking at a story on HuffPost about how Bernie Madoff is going to be doing his time at a real prison instead of "Club Fed"...

    Here are just few of the comments people left:

    Let the senior bu tt brigade have him for a couple of days first.

    Don't drop the soap.
    Then again, don't fight it. Just open wide Bernie!

    Hope you don't sleep for the remaining time you have on earth madoff!!... Cause you never know what will happen if you so much as snooze!!

    Why should he get better treatment than other offenders? His crime is just as bad, and worse, than lots of the others in prison. Throw him to Bubba~

    bernie the prison b^&*H!

    From here:

    I think the problem goes a lot deeper than our prison system. Our society is very cruel, and that's the root of the problem. That's why things like prison rape and the 45 million uninsured people are ignored.

    •  Bingo! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ppl can fly

      We live in a society which is dominated by sociopathic sadistic bastards...and our economic system rewards ruthlessness, dishonest and legalized bribery (campaign finance).

      There are all manner of perverse incentives to create more criminals and to keep building more prisons and to extend the terms.   It all creates "work": for guards, cops, judges, lawyers, contractors etc etc etc.

      It doesn't take a "conscious" conspiracy for a hundred flies to be attracted to a piece of shit.

      If there is a vengeful God that hold everyone accountable for all the pain and suffering they cause to others; then there's gonna be lots and lots of tormented souls for the metaphysical equivalent of many eternities.

      The idea that these horrors are happening in America and paid for with our tax dollars is evil to the max...and that's way too mild a term.

  •  excellent diary (8+ / 0-)

    In my opinion this is our biggest national disgrace.

    This is especially true when you figure in sentencing bias, the absurdity of some laws, lack of sentencing parity for similar crimes (like crack and powdered cocaine), the fudging of evidence to get convictions, the laying off of public defenders, etc.  

    And it just gets worse, as more prisons are turned over to private for-profit companies, or to local sadists like Sheriff Arpaio (google the name and tent prisons if you haven't heard of him).  It makes me sick when he writes books and makes television appearances bragging that he takes away inmates blankets on freezing nights, forces them into gulag style labor, and gives them rotting food contributed by stores because expiration dates have passed.

    I'm glad you brought this up.  I hope Webb gets some traction with his bill.

  •  A contstitutional argument (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, imabluemerkin, pstoller78

    Perhaps it has been tried but I would think there is some validity to making an argument that the government cannot send you to prison because it constitutes 'cruel and unusual punishment.'  Upon sentencing, one might argue that the judge has just sentenced you to be raped.  That would be a pretty tough sentence to justify, constitutionally.  

    At some point, we have to hold the government accountable to carry out criminal sentnences properly.  Who doubts that the threat of rape is somewhat willingly encouraged as a commonly expected part of being sent to prison?  If they can't protect you from it where they send you, they're essentially sentencing you to be raped.  

    We're a pretty sick culture for the way we joke about it too.  It's one of the most widespread jokes we have, made in thousands of different ways by people on the left, right and everywhere in between.  I think that's because people have this feeling that it's a form of justice.  Society is sentencing criminals to be raped and we laugh about it.  Considering the incredible number of people we incarcerate and the difficulty of readjusting to freedom after they're released, it's a damned serious issue.      

    "Sometimes ridicule is a completely justified and well-aimed arrow."

    by Sun dog on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:17:53 PM PDT

    •  We imagine the criminals we hate most (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, FarWestGirl

      I'm not excusing it, but I think most people imagine the type of criminals they hate the most(rapist, pedophiles, serial killers) when they make prison rape jokes. We think about them, not Tim Robbin's character, Andy, in Shawshank Redemption or juvenile offenders. We think about people like the man in NC who was trying to sell his 5 year old adopted son for sex on the internet. A child he had also abused himself. People just don't have much sympathy for guys like him. I don't want him to be raped in prison (or anyone else), but on the other hand I wouldn't shed a tear if he dropped dead either. I hope Sen Webb's reforms get passed, but it's going to take a lot to get people to care about the least valued members of our society. We throw them in jail and we just don't care what happens after. We don't think of the prison population as people who need to be protected, but as people we need to be protected from.

      Things fall apart; the center cannot hold-Yeats

      by TexasMango on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:11:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My husband worked as a guard for 5 years. (6+ / 0-)

    He now has a damaged disk in his neck and arthritis (hit in the neck with a padlock in a sock), a shoulder that needs reconstructive surgery (shot with a non-lethal weapon)a shattered kneecap (hit across the knees with an oak mop handle) and permanent foot issues. And PTSD so severe that when we first began dating, I had to shout his name from across the room to wake him.

    We consider it a huge amount of progress that I can kiss him awake now, that he does not need a corner table in restaurants, and that he can go into crowds with manageable levels of anxiety.

    And he was raped in there too. After they knocked him out with that padlock in a sock, during a riot.

    Prisons are cruel to everyone.

    •  Oh God, bless your husband's heart (4+ / 0-)

      I will pray for him. Thank God he has you for a wife. Your husband is very brave to tell you the truth about his experience. Is he seeking professional help as well?

      This is a really important issue. As quiet as it is kept, what goes on in prisons contributes greatly to the very high HIV/AIDS rates in communities with high incarceration rates. Prisons are breeding grounds for disease and prisoners are often not tested before they are released from prison. Most men would never admit to any sexual contact in prisons, rape or consensual. I don't know what can be done given the prison population and the personality type some guards have. I would also imagine that this is an international problem and not just American.

      Things fall apart; the center cannot hold-Yeats

      by TexasMango on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:01:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You don't seek professional help when naked. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The pros cost too much. He's had a lot of help through reading he's done and a lot of just intensive work between the two of us, and the coven we trained in was able to do quite a lot.

        And some of it, you know, we've just accepted may never go away. Everyone in his life knows not to sneak up on him, and I don't know if we'll ever get that worn down. But on the other hand, enough people now know about PTSD that he doesn't feel ashamed to tell his coworkers, "Hey, don't come up behind me and do stuff, I've got PTSD from working at Pendleton."

        I really agree that it's an important issue. Because if you treat people like animals, they act like animals. And unfortunately, some people act like animals to others no matter what. I think actual reform of personality disorders is a difficult proposition in some cases, especially when you've got a system designed to punish, not to change for the better.

  •  I know a guy who did time in Oregon. He said that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    there was a lifer that the guards would assign as a roommate to some new inmates. The lifer was a sadistic, vicious rapist. The guards knew and still assigned people to room with him. He was apparently never punished or put in solitary, no protection at all for the inmates who were stuck in with him. I tried to get the guy to report it or name names to a reporter so it could be stopped, but he was still too afraid of retaliation from the guards' network, years later.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 12:01:49 AM PDT

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