Monday, June 08, 2009

Soapbox: Prison, and "cruel and unusual punishment"

OK, it's time for me to vent about something that doesn't have anything to do with any particular current event, or something in my own life lately, or anything like that. In fact, that might be part of the problem with it, for prison rape pretty much never gets a mention in the news media. It seems to be accepted in U.S. society as just a constant in the background, something we pretty well know is going on, hence the surfeit of jokes and other alleged humour about it, but out-of-sight, out-of-mind, it never makes the papers.

For a rather unpleasant sample, there's a song by some Bob and Tom team called "Prison Bitch" (tasteless, disturbing YouTube video warning).

What I really loathe is how society as a whole seems to just accept this state of things in prisons, and treat prison rape as though it were merely part of a just and deserved punishment for the inmates. As Ezra Klein wrote a few years ago:

We've decided to tacitly accept rape in our prisons because we believe deeply and firmly in the guilt of all who enter -- this is just further punishment. Better yet, we're not the executors -- that such barbarism occurs behind bars is further confirmation that those we incarcerate are monsters. The assaults make us feel better, they vindicate our sentencing. And we can countenance them because we never face their horrors:...
However, we do, after all, have that pesky 8th Amendment "cruel and unusual punishment" clause, after all. And, if one considered this part of the punishment, I'm pretty sure it would qualify on both counts.

I don't take much stock in playing which-is-worse oneupmanship, but if I had to pick the more vile between this and waterboarding alleged Al-Qaeda-linked persons, I just might call the prison rape system worse, largely because the "punishment" is completely uncorrelated to the crime for which they've been convicted. Indeed, the HRW report linked below suggests that the worse offenders (prior to incarceration) tend more often to be the rapists, and the victims tend to be those who've committed lesser crimes, along with a few other factors unrelated to the severity of their crime.

Related sites and articles:

2 comments:

Sporkey said...

I think if you scratch the surface of someone who finds prison rape funny, that you also see a person who finds rape jokes funny...it doesn't matter if the person is a convict or an uppity woman, they're getting what they deserve. In a sense, it's the same type of victim blaming - you deserve to get raped, because you shouldn't have worn that skirt/had that beer/committed a crime. If we were serious about rape in this country, we could address this issue.

And that video, ye gods. It was okay until the actual song started. I mean, gay guys go to prison and still have relationships and sex there. But then...oh, then the nastiness. I lasted about ten seconds after that. Now I need to douse with brain bleach.

Sporkey said...

Oh, and I found the lyrics to the Prison Bitch song that we were actually thinking of, and if you look at them, it's not bad. There's implied consent to it, at least, though it does kind of skirt the limit of taste, but that's how I read it:

Oh, I met you on a Saturday morning.
I acted all coy and shy,
And then, without much of a warning,
I managed to catch your eye.

You gave me a little tobacco.
Round my waist, you put your arm.
You told me that your name was Psycho;
You were in for grievous bodily harm.

Chorus:
Oh, I'm your personal prison bitch, I am.
I'm totally within your power. (Backup: your power!)
Your personal prison bitch, I am.
We met in the C Block shower.

Oh, to prove that you loved me dearly, (Backup: dearly!)
You gave me a big tattoo, (Backup: tattoo!)
Though it said on my head very clearly,
That I was your "favorite skrew".

Oh, that evening you climbed in my bunk bed (Backup: booty boy?)
And tenderly kissed my cheeks, (Backup: Aw!)
And then you did something else to me,
And I couldn't walk straight for two weeks!

Chorus:
Oh, I'm your personal prison bitch, I am.
I look at you with adulation. (Backup: adulation!)
Your personal prison bitch, I am,
But I wish you'd use lubrication!
Your personal prison bitch, I am.
We have sex every day in the yard. (Backup: in the yard!)
I just hope that no one discovers us,
Especially since I am a guard!

Guard (talking): I love you, Psycho!
Psycho (talking): Oh yeah? Love this, bitch! (Effects: Zip! Thud!)
Guard (talking): Heh, heh. Oh...Psycho! (Effects: Cell door slams.)


The actual flash is no longer available. Not like that video that you linked to...I had to click off at the eyes crying. I'm still retching a little.