Don’t Drop the Soap

There is a lot of hidden tragedy. So to get too dogmatic about one seems a high horse amongst Clydesdales. One in a crowd.

But prison rape to me has long been infuriating. (Not where you thought I was headed?) It’s just totally unacceptable, with any regularity, in a civilized criminal justice system.

It’s like fighting in hockey. Punching your opponent in the face isn’t “part of the game.” It’s called battery.

Rape isn’t “part of jail.” It’s torture.

And notwithstanding some alleged and unofficial policy of the US Government for a better part of the last decade concerning enemy combatants, torture remains illegal.

And yet, in this particular form it continues as an incident of serious prison life that we seem fine to ignore.

Just this week horrific videotape surfaced concerning the unspeakable mistreatment of prisoners in a Georgia detention center. (Georgia as in the East European country, not the United State, although that tape is probably coming soon — for the Georgia Bulldog football team, certainly, if not the State. Got ’em.) It apparently includes footage of a man being sodomized with a broom. But prison rape and humiliation aren’t unique to faraway and emerging countries or some exception to the rule. It happens miles from your home. You just don’t have to give it much thought.

In some ways, the statistical occurrence of prison rape is probably inflated for its coverage in pop culture. But, it just has never struck me as something to be shrugged at over an incidence rate.

“Eh. My stogy in the bed only burned down the house once.”

And even where most prison assault is inmate on inmate, as we turn collectively from the truth about it or, worse, make it a part of our culture of irreverence in comedy or cinema, we abet.

Prisoners have recourse and access to courts. But, the constitutional burden to recover for injury suffered while you are incarcerated is fairly high. Prison officials typically cannot be liable in simple negligence. The standard applied usually requires some showing of deliberate indifference, in safety or medical attention or some other constitutionally significant interest, before liability will lie against them.

But even more than the fairly stacked deck of substantive law against them, there exist innumerable systemic obstacles to the inmate’s ability to fight for their own protection. No counsel. Uneducated in the law. Illiteracy. Limited access to legal materials. Bad handwriting. That whole toilet in the cell thing. Even their own apparent and, often, actual, untrustworthiness makes their claims hard to adjudicate fairly.

So the chances of them mounting any suit against a prison official, for deliberately ignoring their welfare in this respect, is dubious.

Although not similarly situated, it seems right that we ought to one day view this inhumane incident of prison life with the same horror that we now would the living conditions and arcane practices of orphanages and mental hospitals in the early and middle parts of the last century.

So, if you’ve been waiting for a prison rape blong, you’re welcome.

By the way, Patriots v. Ravens?? Hands down the worst officiated game ever. To the very last and deciding play.

Okay. Here we go. Prison rape time.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dave Santos.

Today’s song blog here:

How Come

2 thoughts on “Don’t Drop the Soap

  1. joe, this is a very interesting thought. i have known for awhile your fears of this for yourself and we have joked along with you. but i am sure behind the jokes, as behind the prison doors, it IS a serious and horrific reality. however. have you ever heard of the M prisons in Uganda? no. i hadn’t either. until just recently. there, down a long dark hidden dirt road, behind the reach of the rest of the world , lie buildings referred to as M1, M2, and M3. they are prisons too. only these hold children. young children. picked up on the streets for begging for food for themselves and their families. children dropped off by family who could no longer feed them and whom were told they were going to an “aunt’s” house. these children did nothing wrong. they live in horrendous situations with no real hope of ever being freed. they sleep on urine filled mattresses on rat infested concrete floors. again, they have done nothing wrong… Joe, i will ponder the thoughts you have issued about fighting for the rights of incarcerated men. i will pray for them and their safety. but honestly, my fears right now…are with innocent CHILDREN in prisons when they should be in a loving home. children who have done nothing to deserve being put in prison. thank you for the thoughts though and the conversation. check out sixtyfeet.org sometime. it might give you something to write/rap/song about too. luv ya! danielle

  2. Absolutely unspeakable.

    We know bad stuff goes on. But we don’t really know. And it’s all wilder and more horrible than we could ever imagine. I didn’t know about the child prisons although I am very much aware of serious child abuses in Uganda, specifically.

    I’ll definitely check out the site. Thanks for the heads up and especially for visiting. Means a great deal.

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