We continue our discussion about the prison industrial complex today, getting into ways that mass incarceration intersects with animal exploitation.
In This Episode
We continue with part 2 of our look at the United States’ system of mass incarceration, focusing on how it impacts the people caught up in it, how animal exploitation ties into it, and we end with some ways we can help prevent people from being locked up as well as some alternatives to prison altogether.
Rape in Prison
Sexual assault in prison is a huge issue. Some relevant facts taken from Human Rights Watch’s report US: Federal Statistics Show Widespread Prison Rape:
Some 2.1 percent of the inmates surveyed by the BJS reported sexual abuse involving another inmate. In its 2001 landmark report, “No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons,” Human Rights Watch documented vicious and brutally violent male rapes in prison as well as other more common, less overtly violent forms of coerced sex. Certain prisoners are more vulnerable to rape and are targeted for sexual exploitation – especially prisoners who are young, physically small or weak, gay, first offenders, or have been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor.
According to a report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), “Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates, 2007,” 4.5 percent of the state and federal prisoners surveyed reported sexual victimization in the past 12 months. Given a national prison population of 1,570,861, the BJS findings suggest that in one year alone more than 70,000 prisoners were sexually abused.
Human Rights Watch’s research revealed that sexual abuse by other inmates often occurred because staff failed to adequately supervise inmates or respond appropriately to complaints of unwanted sexual activity. In some prisons, staff tacitly as well as explicitly condoned inmate-on-inmate abuse.
Victims feel like they can’t report the attacks because they may face harsher retaliation from both prisoners as well as prison staff, and getting caught fighting can hurt their chance of parole. Staff may even identify men they know are being assaulted and call them pejoratives for gay. Staff often don’t care, and/or will assume it’s all consensual. Boys who are targeted get identified by all prisoners as easy prey and will be attacked anywhere. Some staff will even threaten to facilitate a raping to keep power and control over inmates
Impact of Incarceration on Youth
The system targets young black men specifically, and the research done on the effect of incarceration on youth paints a sad, horrifying picture:
10,000+ youth are in adult jails in prisons at any given time (as of 2012 report)
A recent literature review of youth corrections shows that detention has a profoundly negative impact on young people’s mental and physical well-being, their education, and their employment. One psychologist found that for one-third of incarcerated youth diagnosed with depression, the onset of the depression occurred after they began their incarceration,6 and another suggests that poor mental health, and the conditions of confinement together conspire to make it more likely that incarcerated teens will engage in suicide and self-harm.7 Economists have shown that the process of incarcerating youth will reduce their future earnings and their ability to remain in the workforce, and could change formerly detained youth into less stable employees. Educational researchers have found that upwards of 40 percent of incarcerated youth have a learning disability, and they will face significant challenges returning to school after they leave detention. Most importantly, for a variety of reasons to be explored, there is credible and significant research that suggests that the experience of detention may make it more likely that will continue to engage in delinquent behavior, and that the detention experience may increase the odds that youth will recidivate, further compromising public safety.
Instead of reducing crime, the act of incarcerating high numbers of youth may in fact facilitate increased crime by aggravating the recidivism of youth who are detained. Prior Incarceration was a Greater Predictor of Recidivism than Carrying a Weapon, Gang Membership, or Poor Parental Relationship – A recent evaluation of secure detention in Wisconsin, conducted by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee reported that, in the four counties studied, 70 percent of youth held in secure detention were arrested or returned to secure detention within one year of release.
Parole violators account for a large portion of the incarcerated population:
About as many people were returned to prison just for parole violations in 2000 as were admitted in 1980 for all reasons combined.
Parole violators accounted for more than 35% of all prison admissions in 2000. Of those, only one-third were returned for a new conviction; the rest were returned for a technical violation, such as missing a meeting with the parole officer.
Many people may think that parole violators must be doing bad things and therefore should be locked up, but it is very easy to violate parole for non-violent and hard-to-avoid scenarios. Parole violations are split between