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Stacey Davis

ENG 123
Professor Sung
November 13, 2015
Literary Review
On April 18, 2015, The New York Times shared the alarming statistic from the
Bureau of Justice Statistics, stating an estimated 80,000 women and men are sexually
abused in American correction facilities, yearly. Since nearly half of all reports filed are
against prison staff, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it is evident as to why
many prisons protect staff. Protecting rape culture in prisons essentially protects the
prison itself. Yet, with the documented effects a rape leaves its victims, prison rape is a
crime that cannot be ignored.
Rape is a complex issue, even outside of prison. In her article Rape Trauma
Syndrome, in the American Journal of Sexuality Education, Tammi Tannura, exposes the
ramifications rape survivors face. Specific attention to Rape Trauma syndrome, within
the confines of prison, is given in Brett Garland and Gabrielle Wilsons article entitled,
"Prison Inmates Views of Whether Reporting Rape Is the Same as Snitching: An
Exploratory Study and Research Agenda," from the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
The authors explore the choice of reporting the crime, or remaining silent, why a victim
may choose to do so, and how they are treated by other inmates and staff, as a result of
their choice. In the Journal of African American Studies article Exposure to Prison
Sexual Assault Among Inarcerated Black Men, Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, Roderick
Harrison, and Rahwa Haile survey 134 African American male inmates, focusing on this

demographic due to the high rate of incarceration. Their study focuses on the effects of
both hearing an assault take place as well as being the victim of an assault. Perhaps the
most emotional article to be located thus far, was by Elizabeth Reid. In her article from
the Yale Law Journal, "The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and the Importance of
Litigation in Its Enforcement: Holding Guards Who Rape Accountable, she shares her
personal story of rape within prison confinement, and the effects it had upon her wellbeing.
Rape has existed since pre-Biblical times. However, for the sake of exploring
prison rape, Cindy and Dave Struckman-Johnson account the movement of stopping
prison rape from the 1930s to 2003, when the Prison Rape Elimination Act was signed
by George W. Bush. Their journal article "Stopping Prison Rape: The
Evolution of Standards Recommended by PREAs National Prison Rape Elimination
Commission, from the Prison Journal, focuses on the aspects of prison rape from a
humanitarian, security, and mental health standpoint.
At present, articles such as Blair Bopps "Setting a Better Standard: Evaluating
Jail Officials' Constitutional Duties in Preventing the Sexual Assault of Pretrial
Detainees from the Missouri Law Review as well as Chandra Bozelkos "Why We Let
Prison Rape Go On," located in The New York Times, have reported on the ethicality of
allowing prison rape, in relation to the Eighth Amendment and a prisoners right to be free
of cruel and unusual punishment. Just this year, Brett Decker shared a statement from
President Obama declaring prison rape is not to be joked about and the beliefe that prison
rape is on the rise in his article "America's Prisons Remain Rife With Rape," from USA
Today. Furthermore, according to a news article entitled U.S. Spars With Texas on

Ending Prison Rapes, in the New York Times, written by Deborah Sontag, at this years
reporting period for PREA, the Texas governor has decided he will not follow in the
previous governors steps, and has begun measures to comply with this act.
It is evident this has and does remain a tough topic within prison reform! Since
the inception of the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, only 2 states have been
compliant, and 6 states governors have flat out refused to comply (Bozelko). For the past
several years, Texas government officials have flat out chosen to forgo the funding they
would receive to adopt the PREAs strict zero tolerance policy (Sontag). However, this is
a trend that may be shifting within Texas, as of May 2015, 25% of prisons were
complying with PREA. Perhaps this shift will continue to rise.
Historically speaking, activists have been trying to figure out the problems
inmates face with assault since the 1930s. According to Struckman-Johnson, during this
time period, the focus was mainly a humanitarian one, trying to preserve the well being
of prisoners. Initially, inspectors were concerned with homosexual behavior, believing
this group was the true threat to prisoners, and conjugal visits were supported to avoid
any misconduct with other inmates. Prisoners were encouraged to remain busy with
exercise, work, and other activities to keep their minds off of sex. Fast forward to the
1970s where it was believed that simply holding authorities responsible for prison rapes
would lower the rate. We now know this to not be true, based on the fact that nearly half
of all prison rapes reported are at the hands of staff.
Later on, in the early 1980s, researchers suggested that prison rape was a security
issue, caused by a very small number of individuals, and the true aggression in prison
was caused by consensual homosexual behavior, which also lead to higher rates of

homicide (Struckman-Johnson). Around the same time, classification of prisoners, based


on the likelihood to commit rape, were put into place to prevent these scenarios.
Interventions to treat victims were also adopted to aid in Rape Trauma Syndrome and
perpetrators were to be prosecuted (Struckman-Johnson). In the 1990s it was suggested
by Robert Drummond, an mental health expert with a background in corrections, that
solitary confinement for victims is treacherous. It not only cuts them off from services
they may need, but can increase chances of suicide and also put them at easier access to
their predator. He also brought up issues of potential exposure to HIV and AIDS
(Struckman-Johnson). Also in the 1990s, was the first attempt at a group providing
education and awareness to prisoners, Stop Prisoner Rape. This group was started by a
prison rape survivor and educated prisoners on how to know when to fight back, pairing
up with a larger prisoner for protection, use of condoms to prevent spread of HIV,
avoiding sexual predators, and how to cope if one is victimized (Struckman-Johnson). In
1994 the Supreme Court ruled that it was unlawful for agencies to not protect inmates
from sexual assault, as this would not uphold the 8th Amendment for prisoners. This states
prisoners are not to be treated with any cruel or unusual punishment (StruckmanJohnson). In 2000 activists were working to create some sort of legislation regarding
prison rape. It wasnt until 2003 that the PREA was passed. While several states have
yet to comply, it is still an act that is moving forward. The challenge is getting victims to
report, and of course be taken seriously, as well as exposing staff who are perpetrators.
Change is possible! Progress has been made, yet we have so much work to
accomplish to lower the number of prison rapes the Bureau of Justice Statistics released.
80,000 prisoners yearly should not have to face sexual assault and the destruction it

causes. No human deserves this tragedy. Much studying has been done into the
historical accounts of prison rape and the path it has followed. Researchers have hard
evidence of the ramifications rape causes to all victims. This topic does not dissipate, it
is constantly one within the news, and one that needs to be carefully laid out, in an
attempt to rectify the problem.
At this point, my goal within this research, I believe needs to be to narrow down
my specific location and possibly age group. Over the next week, I hope to fine tune
where exactly I would like my research to go, so I may select more carefully where I
need my resources to lead me. There is still far too much information out there, and
sadly, areas of the United States where this is not of any concern, society does not seem
concerned that prisoners are too victims. Knowing this, I believe I must also focus a bit
on the effects of rape and Rape Trauma Syndrome. This is a start.