December 2007 Archives

Sexual Victimization of Prison Inmates

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 mandated a self-report survey of prison inmates to determine the nature and extent of sexual victimization in prisons. The first wave of research has been done and a report has been issued: Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates, 2007.

There are numerous findings of interest but only two are reported here: the percent of inmates in prison who have been victimized nationwide and in the California prisons sampled, and the nature of such victimization. Table 4 shows the percent of adult inmates victimized. The "Total" is for the U.S. as a whole. About 2.1% of prison inmates experienced an instance of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization while 2.9% experienced staff-on-inmate victimization.

Click for Table 4

Table 6 shows the level of coercion involved for incidents reported in Table 4. The "Total" is for the U.S. as a whole. A partial glimpse of the problem of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization is revealed in these data.

Click for Table 6

For the definition of terms see the report.

New Jersey & the Death Penalty

New Jersey took the simple step of responding to the voluminous and weighty objections to the death penalty by repealing the sentence of death on Monday, Dec. 17th, 2008. The Governor declared it an end to "state-endorsed killing." They converted sentences of condemned inmates to life without possibility of parole.

In light of the fact that California politicians think it is political suicide to consider taking such an action, note this:

  • there is no grass roots effort underway to recall politicians in New Jersey
  • There is no call for the Governor's resignation
  • There is no strike by prosecutors, police or corrections officers who feel the death penalty is the answer to the crime problem
  • There is relief that the state will not have to worry about executing inmates who have an unacceptably high likelihood of being found factually innocent of the crime that they have been convicted of; nationwide, 2% of convicted defendants who are sentenced to death eventually have their sentences reduced or are exonerated
  • There is little or no controversy about New Jersey's decision to abolish capital punishment.
  • California, and the Pacific region, have much to learn from this experience.

    Is New Jersey a bellwether state? I may well be. It is the first in a generation to abolish the death penalty. There certainly is vocal opposition to the death penalty as such and many judicial systems are crippled by the controversy. Studies continuously show that the death penalty costs more to implement than life without parole, that it does not act as a deterrent (the U.S. has high homicide rates in states with capital punishment), that the U.S. is distinguished by being the only Western democracy in the world that still retains the punishment, and that public opinion--when measured appropriately--is moving toward abolition.

    Tennesee Private Prison Sales Video

    Here's a news story about a video that was made to entice California inmates to transfer to an out-of-state prison. The facility--West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason--is owned and operated by private industry: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

    Here is a link to the video. And here is a quote from the beginning of the article. We haven't heard about this video being played very recently since a court order put a stop the transfer. There is, however, much to learn from this.

    Thousands of California inmates are getting a daily pitch on the finer side of what prison life could be like in Tennessee.

    The video they're watching touts a private Tennessee prison's larger and cleaner jail cells; 79 TV channels, including ESPN; views of peaceful cow pastures; and inmates in the "Dorm of the Week," staying up all night, watching a movie and eating cheeseburgers or pizza.

    The video's stars are some of the 80 California inmates who transferred to Corrections Corporation of America's West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason last fall in what was the Golden State's first export of prisoners to ease overcrowding. Their taped testimonials are being used in an attempt to entice some of their former jail mates to follow them to the promised land of prisons.

    Does this presage California's future of managing inmates--trolling for 'volunteers' by wagging the promised land in front of them through a sales video? Does it reflect how we will deal with the ethical, legal and related issues raised in proposals to transfer inmates far, far away from their families and communities to which they will eventually be returned? Initially this video was shown over the prison network for California inmates. You have to ask yourself, can inmates make a free or voluntary choice on this issue that is in their best long-term interest when they are experiencing the conditions of confinement that they do in California's prisons? Is inmate transfer a rational public policy when recidivism levels are at such high levels and California's re-entry process is in such sorry shape?

    Letter from a mom in prison

    This semester one of my classes read Sue Stauffacher's book, Harry Sue, to learn what young adults (and others) are reading about children whose parents are incarcerated. The book is written from the perspective of an eleven year old girl, who develops a world of prison in her daily life. The book provides insights into what young people are learning about imprisonment other than what they consume through mass media, especially television.

    In a separate venue, and available in pdf at fcnetwork.org through this link, here is a letter written by an imprisoned mom to her children:

    My dearest, my precious, my beautiful daughters,

    Hello sweethearts. Yes, it's me, I'm still alive, even though the break in my heart branches out and tears holes in my soul each and every day. Every second since the last time I saw my two beautiful daughters has been filled with agony. You are both loved beyond description. There truly is no possible way to put into words how very precious you both are to me. I know the both of you know deep in your soul how much I love you!!

    I am so mad at myself, in fact, at times I hate myself for letting you down. I didn't walk away from you. I was shoved away long before either of you were ever born by becoming a drug addict.

    On the days you were born, I held you up and looked directly into your eyes and swore with every fiber of my being that I would always love you and be there for you. And to always protect you, to see to it that you would never hate me for one iota of a second the way I hated my mother and father for all the mean nasty things they did to me, and the way they made me feel worthless. I would always try my hardest to make you both know how beautiful, special, sweet and awesome, smart and wonderful you are.

    I know a lot of people tried to make you believe that you two didn't mean as much to me as drugs. They were so wrong. Please don't believe that. I did drugs to keep from hurting deep inside my heart. And I've come to realize drugs don't make it better. It only stops the pain for a minute, then it comes flying back at you, twice as hard.

    Both of you meant everything and still mean everything to me. God gave me the opportunity, the beautiful moment, to be your mom. Not just your mother. Any woman can be a mother. But it takes love to be a mom. And I love you with every fiber of my being.

    Please don't think for a fraction of a second that it's your fault or that I didn't want you. Because that is not true. It was the drugs. I didn't do drugs, baby girls, they did me! And since you have been gone, not one day has passed that I didn't think of you, miss you or wonder if you were all right. I'm clean now. And I'm gonna stay clean one minute at a time.

    I look forward to the day you come home.

    Please forgive me! You can go to any courthouse and find me! Just tell them to look it up. It's in the paperwork from the court, the ones that took you away...they have to tell you!

    Love you with all of my soul!

    Your mother
    [name deleted]

    There are other letters and poems included in the collection.

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    This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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