Watching out for your butt

YBy Matthew Schoettmer Young, skinny, wimpy dudes have been taking it from behind for ages. Literally.

In 1824, at the conclusion of a prison tour along the East Coast and in the South, Rev. Louis Dwight remarked: “I have found melancholy testimony to establish one general fact, videlicet, that boys are prostituted to the lust of old convicts.”

That’s right. Prison rape has been going on for centuries. Yet even though the good reverend said, “Nature and humanity cry aloud for redemption from this dreadful degradation,” nothing has been done about it. That is, until last month.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill July 25 that also had been passed unanimously by the Senate earlier. That bill is the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled permitting prison rape to persist deserved a constitutional violation. So, most prison administrators disavow the existence of said problem.

In a commentary by Joanne Mariner, she contends this ignorance is intentional. She quoted a December 2002 letter from Reginald Wilkinson, the head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, to the Cincinnati Enquirer wherein he wrote, “Sexual assault in prison is highly exaggerated.” He also was quoted in her commentary as saying the idea that prison rape is common is “a flat-out lie.”

Independent studies, however, contradict the words of Wilkinson. One such study published in December 2000 concluded 21 percent of the inmates at seven prisons in the Midwest had experienced at least one episode of pressured or forced sexual contact and nearly one in every 10 inmates had been the victim of prison rape.

In addition, a survey of the prison guards who work most directly with inmates in the prison system of a Southern state estimated that approximately 20 percent of all prison inmates had been coerced into inmate-on-inmate sex.

Since the prison administrators seem unwilling to do anything about the prison rape crisis, the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is intended to force recognition upon them. Although it lacks the teeth to properly enforce any protective measures, the legislation is designed to generate a study of prison rape and develop the statistics that might be used to generate standards for prevention and protection.

Honestly, it’s about time Congress takes measures to save my ass if I ever go to prison.