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A good mission for MRAs

Have you heard of the Prison Rape Elimination Act? It was passed a long time ago.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress. The purpose of the act was to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” (Prison Rape Elimination Act, 2003). In addition to creating a mandate for significant research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and through the National Institute of Justice, funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Corrections supported major efforts in many state correctional, juvenile detention, community corrections, and jail systems.

This law sounds like a good idea, and since the most common (but not the only!) victims of prison rape are men, you’d think this would be a major cause for men’s rights advocacy. I’m sure they’re poised to leap into action.

If you want an immediate focus for action, try this: Rick Perry, governor of Texas, has refused to comply, over a decade after the act was passed. His arguments aren’t very good: he claims that Texas standards have been sufficient, that it would cost too much to comply, and that they have far too many prisons and prisoners to be able to cover with the available auditing tools.

If Texas has adequate safeguards against prison rape, why is Texas one of the worst states in the country for sexual abuses in prison?

Years of government research, as well as thousands of letters to JDI from Texas inmates, show that rape is rampant in Texas prisons. In a 2013 report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) singled out more detention facilities in Texas than in any other state for having high levels of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse. That report, which was based on a nationwide survey of tens of thousands of inmates, was no aberration; two prior BJS inmate surveys, released in 2010 and 2007, also ranked Texas prisons as having some of the highest rates of sexual victimization in the country.

And maybe they could save some money and protect society humanely if they didn’t lock up so many men that they need hundreds of prisons. We have obscene incarceration rates, not just in Texas, but all across America.

It just seems to me that this prison problem ought to be a major focus of a men’s human rights movement, rather than abusing women and blaming them for all of their ills. Let me know when it happens.

Comments

  1. Chaos Engineer says

    The MHRA movement has already been working on this issue.

    They spend a lot of time arguing this point: “Very little attention is paid to male prison rape, so an equal amount of attention should be paid to all the other sorts of rape.” And they’ve been defending that position just about as persuasively as it’s possible to defend it. (Primarily in the comments sections of articles about other sorts of rape.)

    Is there anything else you think they ought to be doing? Frankly I think they’re doing too much already.

  2. says

    It’s also a little remarked fact that the majority of sexual assault victims in the military are men. (Women are at higher risk, but there are fewer of them.)

  3. sugarfrosted says

    Silly PZ Myers. To Rick Perry the high incidences of rape in prison is part of the punitive nature of the prisons, ergo they do have enough safe guards in place, which is not enough to help prevent it

  4. Becca Stareyes says

    Chaos Engineer,

    Try the second full paragraph after the quote, the one that begins “If you want an immediate focus for action…”

    Also, no one should be raped. I don’t care if they are in prison. I don’t care if they are in prison for doing heinous things. So, yes, I think we need to do more.

  5. Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit says

    Chigau, #7
    Probably?
    Or at least, it’s not /enough/ of a loss to justify spending money to fix it, because hey, it’s only prisoners, right? And who cares about them? /sarcasm
    -
    Fuck Rick Perry and his disrespect for the people in the prison system.

  6. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    I agree. Perry doesn’t care because prisoners don’t matter to him. He and his like the system just the way it is: cruel and profitable.

    The good news is that felons can vote in TX after probation.
    At least they have some voice.
    Here in KY, only the governor can reinstate civil rights.

  7. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    skinny pot dealers

    The victims of prison rape are overwhelmingly, statistically more likely to be black men. Your standard issue white pot head is just factually not the right choice as a symbol.

  8. Alverant says

    I agree, Perry just doesn’t seem to care about prisoners unless there’s something in it for him. If this were happening at one of those country club prisons he’d be all over it because those financial felons may be campaign contributors one day.

  9. Ishikiri says

    Incarceration rates, sentence lengths, and prison conditions in America are absolutely appalling. It’s something I wish we could take more than a few hints from Norway about. Unfortunately, convicts only the slightest amounts of sympathy, everyone seems to want to see them suffer as much as possible.

    I read one comment on a blog somewhere that I found rather insightful: that we’re giving inmates simultaneously too much freedom and too little freedom. You can throw someone in solitary confinement for years, but most people think that’s cruel. Or you can give them the freedom to do more or less as they choose with the exception of being able to leave, as it is in some Scandinavian prisons, but most see that as not punitive enough. So what we’re left with is something in between, and it’s resulted in a toxic prison culture.

  10. says

    Am I missing something? Does skinny pot dealer imply white?

    In a racist culture where white is the default setting, making no mention of race does imply white.

  11. cactusren says

    A bit off topic, I know, but this is the sort of thing I would like to see in more prisons. I don’t know what, if any, affect education and training programs have on rates of rape in prison, but my guess is that it would reduce it. The thing that makes me happiest about that video is that the prisoners seem genuinely proud of what they’re doing, and imagine a future for themselves outside of the prison system.

  12. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    In a racist culture where white is the default setting, making no mention of race does imply white.

    Especially when most prison rape jokes usually revolve around a big black guy picking on the skinny white dude. At the very least, that perpetrator is always the same. Black men aren’t on the receiving end of those jokes unless within their own subculture or being threatened with prison time because their seen as threatening thugs.

  13. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Am I missing something? Does skinny pot dealer imply white?

    In addition to what SallyStrange said, yes, in context, it does imply ‘white.’ The figure of the typical, white, American pot head is used a lot in US conversation. Also, given that Kevin Alexander’s avatar depicts someone who fits the description of “old hippie pot head” I think it was a reasonable assumption to make.

    I recently noticed this reading so many white guys complaining about draconian pot laws (I agree with them) and positing how scary it is to think they could be put in jail “for carrying a joint.” Yes, they can, but they’re so vastly unlikely to face this compared to basically *any* person of color, I realized how warped our perceptions of the drug war really are.

    I’m a white guy who smokes weed regularly and I want marijuana legalized. But I’m also in the enviable position—by dint of being white, 39, and typically middle class—of being able to indulge without much worry of incarceration. The black kids who walk down my street to school every day? Infinitely more likely to be sent to prison for having less weed on them than I keep in my kitchen.

  14. Rey Fox says

    I think the joke was about the high rate of nonviolent drug offenders in prison due to the unjust war on drugs. I tend to think of them as white too. It’s a blind spot.

  15. tfkreference says

    Thanks for the clarification. Personally, I don’t see how the race of the attacker can make rape worse. Given the differing rates if incarceration, I suppose I should assume a convict is black, but in support of SallyStrange’s point, I guess, when no race is specified, I always assume white (for good or bad actors).

  16. alexanderz says

    chigau (違う) #7:

    In a for-profit-prison system, is rape a money-maker or not?

    Of course it is! Any abuse increases the chances that the victim will abuse others, thus guaranteeing his return to prison. It really boggles my mind how anyone can support a for-profit-prison system. Every time I say that such a system is very much likely not to have the best interests of the inmates and society in mind, people tell me that government regulation would guarantee that no abuse would take place. When I ask why we can’t stay with the current (in my country prisons are controlled by the state, but there is often debate about moving to the “American model”) system, they reply that they don’t think the government can do anything right.
    The apparent contradiction escapes them.

    Rape is not about sex.

    It’s not from the perspective of the victim, but it might be from the perspective of the perpetrator. Which is why I’m wondering whether conjugal visits could help decrease the problem of prison rapes.

  17. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    tfkreference: It’s not that the race of the attacker makes the rape worse. It’s that the avatar of the victims of the prison system that we conjure up (white stoners) are actually the least likely to be victims of the prison/drug system. It’s that disconnect that I’m talking about. The erasure of the reality that what white stoners fear is mainly a fantasy for them, but a reality for people of color.

  18. Alverant says

    tfkreference, I think race is a factor when it comes to the prosecution, conviction, and treatment of criminals. The justice system would be more likely to do something about a “black on white” rape than vice versa.

  19. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    I’ve often found myself arguing with people who think rape or the threat thereof in prison is an appropriate and good part of the “punishment” aspect. I have yet to get an answer for how having the ability to rape more or less freely is somehow a punishment for the people who do the actual raping. Perhaps the apologists feel it’s a bonus for good behaviour.

  20. methuseus says

    The ones doing the raping are punished because sodomy sends someone to hell, didn’t you know?

  21. says

    I’ve often found myself arguing with people who think rape or the threat thereof in prison is an appropriate and good part of the “punishment” aspect.

    I might be mistaken, I don’t have any data to back this up, but my impression is that many, if not most, people view prison as a place for bad people go to get punished and just about anything that happens to them is acceptable. It is all about punishment. Sure some people may give lip service to protecting society and such, but if people actually meant that they would not support the lazy, counterproductive model of prisons in the US, or here in Canada for that matter. Most discussions online, outside of Pharyngula, that dare to talk about treating prisoners like humans in some way always seem to devolve into people yelling about how they have no rights and deserve what they get.

  22. John Horstman says

    Rhetorically, they’re all over it. MRAs have, without fail, cited low levels of activism around prison rape as a reason to engage in similarly low levels of activism around any other kind of rape in any discussion regarding rape activism I’ve seen online (Chaos Engineer mentions this in #2). In terms of action, MRA activism seems to be almost completely restricted to complaining about and harassing feminists and women on the internet. Oh, and pathetic attempts to set up legal attack or defense funds for men who like to harass or assault women. They had that one rally with, like, a dozen people, but beyond denying all the poor, deprived women their sacred sperm, I haven’t seen much in the way of meatspace action.

  23. says

    Rhetorically, they’re all over it. MRAs have, without fail, cited low levels of activism around prison rape as a reason to engage in similarly low levels of activism around any other kind of rape in any discussion regarding rape activism I’ve seen online

    For the most part this is what I have seen, prison rape being used as a cudgel to beat feminists and women, but almost nothing in terms of action or real activism. Some of them might care about the issue but I am not convinced it is more than a tool for many of them.

  24. says

    Sili @ 34 nails it.

    Actually launching some kind of coordinated campaign to address and reduce the frequency of rape in prison (not to mention the culture that silences victims) would cost your average MRA time, effort and perhaps even money. Not only that, but their efforts could be measured against concrete, visible goals and thus open to judgement and criticism on their success or failure. Additionally, MRAs seem quite fond of rape jokes and rape culture (as long as it’s men doing the raping in those scenarios) and to suddenly start campaigning against rape – even in the highly specific context of prison – would mean, at least in some situations, rape jokes would be inappropriate and unwelcome. And we’re all aware of how MRAs don’t like their speech policed.

    The obvious and very sad thing is as PZ outlined: this is a very serious problem and one that seems right in the MRA ballpark. Perhaps, however, the manly men movement simply isn’t as concerned with the welfare of men as many of its self-declared members insist – or maybe they’re only concerned with the welfare of non-convict non-POCs who are systematically oppressed by some kind of allegedly anti-male state apparatus. Perhaps, also, there’s a resistance within MRA circles to actually organise and protest and campaign because the ensuing resemblance to feminist advocacy would make them uncomfortable – not to mention the fact that a true appreciation of western first-world society’s expectations of gender would require an attendant appreciation of the reality of the patriarchy and how it harms all genders, not just women. Hell, MRAs might actually have to ask experienced feminist activists for advice on how to proceed – for some men, that’d be almost as weak as asking for directions.

    Finally, rape victim advocacy would also require talking – and listening – to rape victims about their experiences. A difficult proposition with male victims of rape already thanks to countless centuries of men being conditioned to not talk about it, and made even more difficult in prison due to labels like “bitch” and “snitch”, as well as easily carried-out retribution and re-victimisation. There’s also the not insignificant issue of victim-blaming, which most MRAs I’ve ever encountered are more than happy to perpetuate.

    Far easier, then, for the MRA to claim persecution, blame women for their lot and mock, abuse and harass feminists of all genders from the safety of their keyboards.

  25. Usernames are smart says

    Personally, I don’t see how the race of the attacker can make rape worse.
    — tfkreference (#25)

    It is the caucasian (American) myth of us blacks as being sexual savages: great quality of black women (they gotta have it!), scary quality of black men (they’ll rob, rape and kill us all!).

  26. Usernames are smart says

    Sorry for double-dipping. I can’t resist!

    Heeey, who ate my comment? I spent a whole cup of coffee writing that :|
    — Hank_Says (#35)

    Jesus Saves!!</snark>

  27. Marc Abian says

    many, if not most, people view prison as a place for bad people go to get punished and just about anything that happens to them is acceptable

    I’d go along with that.
    In addition, they’re freeloaders driving up our taxes, so they get some of the hate that welfare queens on their food stamps get. And probably macho culture, which in my mind is worse in America, increases the acceptability/desirability of some cruel free for all where might makes right.

  28. mickll says

    The profile of your average prisoner is not middle class or white.

    This is why they’ll be spending much more of their energies defending their “rights” to be a douchebag and blaming “political correctness” and “feminism” for everything!

  29. says

    [trying to post again...]

    Sili @ 34 nails it.

    Actually launching some kind of coordinated campaign to address and reduce the frequency of rape in prison (not to mention the culture that silences victims) would cost your average MRA time, effort and perhaps even money. Not only that, but their efforts could be measured against concrete, visible goals and thus open to judgement and criticism on their success or failure. Additionally, MRAs seem quite fond of rape jokes and rape culture (as long as it’s men doing the raping in those scenarios) and to suddenly start campaigning against rape – even in the highly specific context of prison – would mean, at least in some situations, rape jokes would be inappropriate and unwelcome. And we’re all aware of how MRAs don’t like their speech policed.

    The obvious and very sad thing is as PZ outlined: this is a very serious problem and one that seems right in the MRA ballpark. Perhaps, however, the manly men movement simply isn’t as concerned with the welfare of men as many of its self-declared members insist – or maybe they’re only concerned with the welfare of non-convict non-POCs who are systematically oppressed by some kind of allegedly anti-male state apparatus. Perhaps, also, there’s a resistance within MRA circles to actually organise and protest and campaign because the ensuing resemblance to feminist advocacy would make them uncomfortable – not to mention the fact that a true appreciation of western first-world society’s expectations of gender would require an attendant appreciation of the reality of the patriarchy and how it harms all genders, not just women. Hell, MRAs might actually have to ask experienced feminist activists for advice on how to proceed – for some men, that’d be almost as weak as asking for directions.

    Finally, rape victim advocacy would also require talking – and listening – to rape victims about their experiences. A difficult proposition with male victims of rape already thanks to countless centuries of men being conditioned to not talk about it, and made even more difficult in prison due to labels like “bitch” and “snitch”, as well as easily carried-out retribution and re-victimisation. There’s also the not insignificant issue of victim-blaming, which most MRAs I’ve ever encountered are more than happy to perpetuate.

    Far easier, then, for the MRA to claim persecution, blame women for their lot and mock, abuse and harass feminists of all genders from the safety of their keyboards.

  30. says

    @37 usernames are smart:

    Heeey, who ate my comment? I spent a whole cup of coffee writing that :|
    — Hank_Says (#35)

    Jesus Saves!!

    Satan scores on the rebound!

    And Hank copies and pastes into a text document :)

  31. says

    Sorry for the multi-post – guess my big #35 (& #41) were in moderation (certain keywords, I’m guessing).

    PZ: feel free to delete this comment and #41!

    Ta.

  32. says

    I can’t help looking at the current response to victims of institutional child sexual abuse and thinking that we’ll be doing the same thing all over again with victims of prison rape. Although there are some differences, the fact that the state is responsible for the well-being of all prisoners, and that the abuse is so rampant, makes me hope that as a society we’ll eventually see this for the incredible failing that it is.