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  What if someone told you something that was contrary to how you viewed the world? Something horrible.
   Would you reject it out-of-hand? Would you rationalize and create an "exception" for it? Or would you allow this new information to adjust your world view?


   Rape is about men sexually assualting women. Men being sexually assaulted is a rare event, right?
Well, that's only true as long as you exclude one part of America: the prison system.

 In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That's 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.
  The numbers are somewhat vague because the overwhelming percentage of prison rape never gets officially reported.
   Nearly 1 in 10 prisoners are raped or sexually assualted. More than 90% of prisoners are male.

   In comparison, RAINN, which also goes beyond officially reported statistics, said that there were 213,000 victims of sexual assault in the US that year. Around 90% of them women and girls.
   There may be some overlap between the two reports, but probably not much. The two surveys also use different definitions of "sexual assault".
   So is "the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women"? That's not exactly clear, but it is certainly possible.

   Whenever I run across a stat that says "first in history of the world", especialy one as horrific as this, I have to think there is a deep moral sickness in that society, and that society is America. At the very least it means that we've been undercounting sexual assaults in this country by around 100%. Why? Because prisoners "don't count" as people.


  Growing up in the 70's and 80's the Soviet Union was considered evil. Proof of that evil was their cruel, overflowing gulag system. After all, how could a country be considered free when it imprisoned so many of their citizens, right?
   The United States could never be like that.

 Robertson drew attention to one of the great scandals of American life. "Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today," writes the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik. "Over all, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America--more than 6 million--than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height."
 At the peak of Stalin's tyranny, the Soviet Union imprisoned around 800 per 100,000. We have nearly reached the absolute worst levels of Soviet gulag tyranny, and surpassed post-Stalin levels.
 According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people.
But we only imprison bad people, not like the Soviet Union, right.

  Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses.
   Federal law hands out 10 year sentences for possession of 2 ounces of crack. In Texas,  possessing 4 ounces of marijuana can get you 2 years in prison. 13 states have "three strikes" laws, and they don't have to be violent felonies. In fact, other laws automatically kick misdemeanors up to felonies.
   The crime rate in America has been falling for decades, yet our prison population keeps climbing. The violent crime rate in America is just 1/3rd of the rate in 1994. The murder rate is the lowest in a century, yet most Americans believe the crime rate is getting worse.

 So if the crime rate has no relationship to the prison population, and that is specifically targets non-violent offenders, then how can our prison system be in any way different from the Stalinist gulag system?


   OK. So we allow a culture of rape in our prisons. We lock people up for long periods of time for victimless crimes. We even allow private prisons to be so understaffed and insecure that they get called Gladiator School.

  Given all that, we still don't have systematic, institutionalized torture in our prisons, right? Wrong.

 In the early nineteenth century, the U.S. led the world in a new practice of imprisoning people in solitary cells, without access to any human contact or stimulation, as a method of rehabilitation. The results were disastrous, as prisoners quickly became severely mentally disturbed. The practice was all but abandoned. Over a century later, it has made an unfortunate comeback. Instead of torturing prisoners with solitary confinement in dark and dirty underground holes, prisoners are now subjected to solitary confinement in well-lit, sterile boxes. The psychological repercussions are similar.
 At any one day, around 80,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement. Often this condition last for years. The United States isn't the only country that uses solitary confinement. It just uses it the most.
 “The United States is an outlier in the world both in terms of the numbers, and an outlier in the amount of time people spend in [isolation],” said Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It is not uncommon for people to spend 10 or more years in conditions that are severe.”
 Prisoners locked in solitary for long periods suffer from high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.
   The use of solitary confinement in the United States is scattershot. Sometimes it is used as a preventative measure. Sometimes as punishment. Sometimes it is simply standard proceedure, such as using it for illegal immigration.


  Most people think of slavery as something in the distant past. Consider the 13th Amendment:

 “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
 The constitutional loophole for abolishing slavery is the prison system.

  In fact, slavery is still a very American thing.

 “We have to stop this slave system,” says Melvin Ray “we already went through that institution one time before.” From inside a segregation cell in St Clair Correctional Facility in Melville, Alabama, Ray is trying to organize a strike against unpaid prison labor and for better conditions. Ray and other prisoners involved in the “Free Alabama Movement” announced earlier this month that they would refuse to work prison jobs this week. It would have been the second time this year that Alabama prisoners organized a work stoppage; a similar strike in January began at St Clair and spread to at least two other prisons in the state.
 In 2012 Alabama's government passed a bill allowing private businesses to contract prison labor. The AFL-CIO calls it "quasi-slavery".

  Alertnet reports that almost 1 million prisoners are doing simple unskilled labor including “making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.”
   Prison labor is now directly competing with labor in the private sector.

 “‘We pay employees $9 on average,’ [a company executive] said. ‘They get full medical insurance, 401(k) plans and paid vacation. Yet we’re competing against a federal program that doesn’t pay any of that.’
    [The private prison] is not required to pay its workers minimum wage and instead pays inmates 23 cents to $1.15 an hour. It doesn’t have health insurance costs. It also doesn’t shell out federal, state or local taxes.”
While the prisoners won't get whipped for refusing to work, like the days of slavery, they can be punished in other ways, such as being denied priviledges.

 All this is good news for The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). They've seen their revenue increase by 500% in the last two decades.
CCA saw $1.7 Billion in revenue in 2011. The Geo Group saw $1.6 Billion in revenue. Together they have spent about $20 million in lobbying, and another $5 million in political donations.

 The federal prison industry already makes 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens.

 Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
"Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors."
  - Charles Bukowski

 However, the real trick is how the contracts are written with the 48 states they are offering their business.

 what made CCA's pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling...
   In the Public Interest found that 41 of those contracts [out of 62] included occupancy requirements mandating that local or state government keep those facilities between 80 and 100 percent full.
 Of course these private prison companies have been big campaign donors for "three-strike" and "truth-in-sentencing" laws, which just proves the claim of the Progressive Labor Party when they say "The system feeds itself".


 In the end, this all ties together. Prisoners "don't count" when it comes to counting rapes and torture if they aren't real people. And by "not real people", I mean slaves.

1:38 PM PT: There is one other item in which the United States is the outlier: the only 1st world nation to use capital punishment.

   Fortunately, this is one small area in which we might be moving in the right direction. 18 states have abolished the death penalty, six of them in just the last six years.

   The reason we are moving in the right direction on this is because the overwhelming evidence that we've probably been executing innocent people.

   The number of nations that has abolished the death penalty has gone from 16 in 1977 to 97 in 2012 and another 36 nations hadn't executed anyone in at least 10 years.

3:04 PM PT: This is just one way how private prisons can turn ugly.Kids for Cash Scandal.

 The "kids for cash" scandal unfolded in 2008 over judicial kickbacks at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Two judges, President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan, were accused of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities, in return for contracting with the facilities and imposing harsh sentences on juveniles brought before their courts to increase the number of inmates in the detention centers.
    For example, Ciavarella sentenced children to extended stays in juvenile detention for offenses as minimal as mocking a principal on Myspace, trespassing in a vacant building, or shoplifting DVDs from Wal-mart.

Originally posted to gjohnsit on Sun May 04, 2014 at 12:46 PM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS.

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