As a lawyer and officer of the court for more than 40 years, few events cause my blood to boil more than incidents of rape, violence and rampant abuse against defenseless inmates within the vast American jail and prison systems.
Rape, violence and abuse are not part of any prisoner’s sentence no matter what he or she did to deserve incarceration. When the state puts someone in a cage it assumes a serious responsibility for the safety and general well being of that human being. Inmates in jails and prisons are at the complete mercy of their jailers and the prison environment.
You wouldn’t take your dog to a place to stay where it might likely be abused. You wouldn’t put your pet inside a locked cage with a vicious pit bull for a cellmate. But that kind of horror happens to human beings every day.
Many people think it’s hilariously funny the prospect of a convicted person going to a place where he will likely be abused by other inmates, or worse yet, by the guards. They actually think that abuse should be part of the punishment, that the convict deserves it. That’s why prisoner abuse is so common today and why it seems that so little is done about it.
Now we learn to no particular surprise that male guards at an Alabama women's prison have been conducting widespread sexual abuse of female inmates for years, according to The Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit group which recently filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department.
"In interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at Tutwiler (Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama), EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence," between 2009 and 2011. "This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct," said Bryan Stevenson, the group's executive director.
Stevenson blames the Alabama Department of Corrections for under-reporting the alleged attacks, which include rapes, and for responding inadequately. More than "20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or terminated in the past five years for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners." Several imprisoned women also allegedly became pregnant after being raped by guards, giving birth while in custody.
A 2007 Justice Department report found that Tutwiler maintained the highest rate of sexual assault among prisons for women and 11th overall of those evaluated across the United States.
"It's an ongoing thing, a daily thing," said Stefanie Hibbett, 31, a former Tutwiler inmate. "You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done."
Hibbett said she was the victim of sexual assault in November 2010. She said she told the prison's warden about the assault, but no charges were ever filed against the prison guard she says attacked her. An Alabama judge dismissed a civil suit she filed in the case in August.
Prison staff who abuse inmates should get life imprisonment in solitary confinement with no possibility of parole for their rightful legal punishment. That’s what they should get which is far better than what they deserve.
They deserve to have their finger and toe nails pulled out one by one with a pair of needle nose pliers. They deserve to be branded by a red hot iron with the word “rapist” across their foreheads. They deserve cruel torture daily for the rest of their miserable lives for what they’ve done to defenseless human beings confined against their will.
The morons who decided in the first instance that there should be male guards over female inmates and female guards over male inmates deserve to be taken out behind the barn and shot. At the very least they should be fired and never be allowed to have anything to do with the prison system again. They’ve provided an engraved invitation for mayhem.
No person who has yet to be convicted of a crime, including accused persons awaiting trial, should ever be incarcerated with convicted criminals. Any prisoner who commits unprovoked violence or intimidation against a guard or another prisoner should be put in solitary confinement until they no longer present a danger to others.
Persons who have committed non-violent crimes – including Bernie Madoff -- should not be put in cages unless they refuse to comply with the terms of their sentences. Far better to put a color coded collar around their necks corresponding to the nature of the wrong they did, a GPS bracelet around their ankles for the purpose of keeping track of them, and house them in dormitories without guards for a portion of their sentences.
But no matter what we do to them, rape is not a part of any sentence.