The Washington Post published this two weeks ago, but still nothing happened:
“RAPE IS VIOLENT, destructive, and a crime — no less so when the victim is incarcerated.” These were the opening words of a report delivered to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last June by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. By law, the attorney general was given one year to consider the report’s recommendations and issue standards to reduce the scourge of sexual violence in the nation’s prisons. The Justice Department is about to miss its June 23 deadline — and probably by a shamefully wide margin.
The department will not say, but those following this issue closely estimate that the Justice Department is unlikely to take action until the end of this year. At that time, federal prisons will be obligated to adopt whatever standards Justice approves. State and local facilities will not be forced to embrace the measures for another year after that. In the meantime, more prisoners — including juveniles — will have been senselessly brutalized.
This is such a basic principle of human decency, to keep prisoners from being sexually brutalized, and the thing is, the report had bipartisan support. As far as I can tell, the only people who oppose it are the corrections officials, who don’t want anyone looking over their shoulder while they ignore prisoners getting gang raped — or molested by guards.
Even the screwed-up people who believe prisoners deserve whatever happens might want to give some thought to the fact that prison rape happens so frequently to innocent people who are being held in custody until they’re cleared. Maybe even those sick bastards might give some thought to the possibility of their 17-year-old kid being raped by an HIV-positive convict after their kid’s held for DUI.
Because even in this Taser-lovin’ America of ours, people might still see the injustice of inflicting a life sentence like HIV on someone who hasn’t even been found guilty yet.
And that’s not even looking at the fate of gay prisoners, who are treated like sex slaves while guards and prison officials look the other way. Kendall Spruce testified at the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission hearings in 2005:
I was sentenced to six years in prison in 1991 on a probation violation. I was originally convicted of forging a check to buy crack cocaine. When I went to prison, I was 28 years old, I weighed 123 pounds, and I was scared to death.
I was right to be afraid. I am bisexual, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex with just anyone. As soon as I got there, inmates started acting like they were my friends so they could take advantage of me. I told them I wasn’t going to put up with that. I didn’t want to be robbed of my manhood. But they jumped on me. They beat me. Within two weeks, I was raped at knifepoint.
Being raped at knifepoint was the worst thing I could ever imagine. The physical pain was devastating. But the emotional pain was even worse.
I reported the rape, and was sent into protective custody. But I wasn’t safe there either. They put all kinds of people in protective custody, including sexual predators. I was put in a cell with a rapist who had full-blown AIDS. Within two days, he forced me to give him oral sex and anally raped me. I yelled for the guard, but it was so loud in there, no one came to help me. I finally had to flood the cell to get a guard to come.
Because I was raped, I got labeled as a “faggot.” Everywhere I walked, everyone looked at me like I was a target. It opened the door for a lot of other predators. Even the administrators thought it was okay for a “faggot” to be raped. They said, ‘Oh, you must like it.’ I’m here to tell you that no one wants to be raped. No one likes being violently attacked.
I documented the abuse, I filed grievances, I followed all of the procedures to report what was happening to me, but no one cared. They just moved me from cell to cell. This went on for nine months. I went through nine months of torture – nine months of hell – that could have been avoided.
In August, I started bleeding really bad from the rectum. I didn’t want to go to the infirmary, because I was still so ashamed about what had happened to me, but I had to. They gave me a test, and that’s when I got the devastating news. I was HIV-positive.
Keith DeBlasio testified about a retaliatory transfer to a high-risk prison because he reported abuses by guards at a minimum-security prison:
.After being convicted of a nonviolent securities offense, I was sent to FCI-Morgantown. Set at a former youth facility, Morgantown is a minimum security facility with no fence. Places like Morgantown are used for individuals with relatively no risk of violence, escape, or predatory behavior.
As an inmate at Morgantown, I witnessed corrections officials breaking the rules of the institution, and I reported them. Because of my reports, the prison officials retaliated against me by holding me in solitary segregation, by falsely accusing me of misconduct on charges that were later proven to be false, and finally, I suppose as a last resort, by transferring me to a higher-security facility in Milan, Michigan.
At the time, FCI-Milan was a facility often used for more unmanageable inmates in the mid-Atlantic region. It had a history of gang activity, large scale riots, violence, and predatory assaults.
I was being sent to a place known to be dangerous simply for speaking up. I was worried about what might happen to me there, but I honestly had no idea how bad it would turn out to be. I tried to protest the decision to transfer me, and I asked not to be housed in the dangerous dormitory-style housing at Milan. But I was placed in a double dormitory with about 150 inmates, dozens of blind spots, and only one officer on duty at any given time. It was here that my nightmare began. It was here that I was sexually assaulted by the same assailant, more times than I can even count.
Today, one of the things that disturbs me the most is that before the abuse began, I told officials that I felt vulnerable in the open dormitory unit, and I told officials that I felt threatened by the assailant. My assailant was a leader in a gang called the Vice Lords, and he was known for being violent. When he began to threaten and harass me, I told the prison officials, but the prison officials did nothing.
After serving three days in segregation for brutally assaulting another inmate in a stairwell, he was released and assigned to my dormitory. That was when the repeated assaults began. He threatened to stab me, and he raped me. There were numerous assaults in a long period of ongoing abuse, especially after prison officials moved my assailant into the same cubicle with me as my bunkmate. I couldn’t defend myself, because he had his fellow gang members standing watch. I knew that if I reported him, I would face repercussions from the other gang members and no action was being taken by officials.
I felt there was no escape. Another man had reported abuse before me and, instead of finding safety, he was put in a recreation cage alone with his rapist, all while under protective custody. So I had just cause for staying silent.
Unfortunately, my story does not end there. Eventually, I became very ill. My illness was mysterious – swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, dizziness, and scabs on my scalp. Medical staff could not identify the illness, and so I spoke with my personal physician and friend at home. She prompted me to ask for an HIV screening.
Permission to take the HIV test took quite some time. It was only after a lengthy grievance process and calls from the outside physician and family members that an HIV test was performed. Sure enough, I was determined to be HIV positive, and extensive triple therapy was begun which would be a lifelong ordeal.
Later I found out that prison officials knew the assailant was emotionally disturbed, a repeat predator, and on psychotropic drugs for his mental problems, and yet they did nothing to protect me. I was a nonviolent offender, but I was given a life sentence. I was repeatedly denied protection from a known predator with HIV.
And finally, this is the testimony of Erica Hejnar. Everything she describes happened in a Philadelphia police station not very far from my neighborhood, in the rapidly-gentrifying area of Fishtown — but of course, because she was homeless, she was powerless against this kind of treatment:
The officer next asked my friend and I if we were girlfriends and whether or not we liked “eating each other’s pussies.” I was shocked, and could not believe that this was really happening. Because our cell was inside a larger closed room, there were no other officers in sight that we could call out to or who could hear what he was saying to us. Trying to keep the situation from escalating, I responded that we were just friends and that we had never had sex. I prayed that he would stop asking us these questions, but he continued to look at us and our bodies in a very suggestive manner. It felt as though his eyes were piercing right through our clothes.
The officer propped up his feet and continued tormenting us. He asked us again if we were girlfriends and threateningly demanded that we kiss each other. As he told us this he jangled his keys in front of us, mocking us, and reinforcing the fact that he had all the power in the situation. In total fear that we would not be allowed to leave if we did not comply with his demands, my friend and I kissed. Unfortunately, the officer would not stop. He told us that he wanted to see us touch each others’ breasts. My friend put her hand on one of my breasts in compliance; the officer then proceeded to ask her if she liked “eating [my] pussy.”
I was so horrified that I started crying uncontrollably. I demanded to know why he was doing this to us, but he continued to insist that we touch each other if we wanted to get out. He threatened us that if we said anything, or made any noise, he would find something to charge us with so that we couldn’t leave.
Then he told us to “lick each other’s pussies.” I got so upset that I told him we were definitely not going to do that, but he pressed on, telling us that “no one would see [us],” and that he would not let us go until we did as he said. My friend and I were both sobbing and started yelling in hopes that somebody would hear and help us.
We wanted to be let out of the cell and get away from this monster as soon as possible. We were distraught, angry, frightened, and crying hysterically. Despite our outrage, there was no way out. He kept telling me to “eat [my friend’s] pussy” and that if I didn’t, we couldn’t go home. When he said that he would find something to charge us with if we didn’t comply with all of his demands, I believed him. It was without question the most humiliating and degrading moment of my life, and I could not believe that this so-called officer of the law had the power to violate us this way. I was beginning to feel like this officer would be able to get away with absolutely anything he chose to do. While this was happening, I noticed that another male officer stuck his head into the cell room and saw what was going on. Instead of doing anything to help us, he gave the first officer a smile, a “thumbs up,” and walked away.
The women were never charged. Nothing was done about what happened to Erica and her friend until the Philadelphia Inquirer began to cover her case.