Prison culture encourages prison rape

By · Sunday, October 26th, 2008

In higher security prisons, where prisoners serve lengthy sentences and have histories of violence, prison inmates pursue power on a primal level. Criminals that are more sophisticated may have political skills, though many equate power with instilling fear in other men. Some predators rape weaker inmates in an effort to create illusions or reputations of dominance.

Many people in society have heard the stereotypical myths regarding prison life. Today’s reality television depicts chaotic environments where violence prevails. I lived for years in such environments. My imprisonment began more than 21 years ago, and during that time, I’ve learned a lot about living in prison.

My experience has been that prisons extinguish hope. Rather than governing through the promise of incentives, prison administrators rely exclusively on the threat of punishments. People who live inside prisons have no mechanism through which they can work toward redemption. Although numerous classification techniques exist to measure bad behavior and to raise a prisoner’s security level, there are no paths a prisoner can pursue to improve his classification. The only way to reduce his security classification is to avoid trouble while watching calendar pages turn. That is a problem in the system because it fails to motivate people. Rather than striving to reconcile with society and preparing to emerge as contributing citizens, many prisoners focus on enhancing their power structure while living in the abnormal world of prison.

Prison rapists do not consider themselves gay. They may refer to their prey as “bitches,” “punks,” or other pejorative names. Yet their primary motivation is to cultivate a reputation as being powerful and feared. They demean those whom they “turn out,” and in no way respect them as a man may respect a woman. The victim is referred to as a female, though gender is not so much a factor. The victim is really dehumanized and demoralized.

When a rapist develops his reputation, he may continue to engage in sexual relationships with other males, yet the rapist never considers himself gay. To him, being gay is equivalent to being a sissy. Prisoners who were strictly heterosexual in the real world may engage in sexual acts with other males in prison without raping them, yet many of them also deny that they are gay. All homosexual activity in prison is considered a weakness within the general population, as prisoners are notoriously intolerant.

Administrators could lessen the perils of prison atmospheres if they were to govern these institutions more like America, where people can advance their standing through merit and good deeds. As long as prisons extinguish hope, they will continue to breed failure and hostility.

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