Sad to say, but many in the outside world snicker and smirk at prison rape. Reader’s comments about internet articles on prison rape reflect the attitude that sexual violence is part of doing the time for the crime. In 2003, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, designed to educate inmates about their rights and provide them with a way to report sexual crimes. Prisons and jails are filled with prisoners who have committed nonviolent crimes. Such inmates are easy prey for predators that are among other inmates and correctional officers.
Jan Lastocy, a first time Michigan offender, was in prison for attempted embezzlement. She was working at the prison warehouse as a secretary when a new correctional officer threatened her with ticket violations, if she did not provide sex for him. She knew that violation tickets would lengthen her 15 month sentence and would have prevented her return to her family.
Lastocy suffered six months in silence, never telling anyone about the rapes because, she stated, “Part of the reason I never said anything is because the warden had made the comment that if it ever came down to the word of an inmate versus a guard, she would always believe the guard over the inmate.”
After Lastocy was released, she was contacted by investigators who had reviewed complaints from other female inmates about this guard. One of the inmates had saved the officer’s DNA. The correctional officer was convicted and received a five year sentence.
Although the Rape Elimination Act was passed in 2003, many states are still in the process of complying with the federal rules. Several states led by Rick Perry of Texas have protested and opposed the requirements claiming the provisions were too costly to implement and the rules violated states rights. The rules provide for protection for inmates who have reported sexual crimes. The Act provided for accurate reporting of sexual violence by every prison and jail. Although Texas has not complied with the Rape Elimination Act, the state accepted several million last year from the federal government for its prison system.
On a personal note, during my first week in state prison, new inmates were temporarily placed in their own unit. I remembered observing a young good looking inmate with long hair. You could see that he was very proud of his hair as you watched him with his careful hair preparation during a rec period. He was bragging about his girlfriends to another inmate. He was in prison for drug charges. About two months after we were assigned to our permanent unit, I saw him at the chow hall. The young inmate was accompanied by two large inmates. There was some makeup on his face and he looked dead to the world.
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com