The Rock Ethics Institute

Initiatives

Rape & the Prison System

Sexual Necropolitics and Prison Rape Elimination

Jessi Lee Jackson
Signs, 39 (1): 197-220 (2013)

Recent US policy aimed at eliminating prison rape demonstrates the racialized sexual relationship between imprisoned people and the state. While invoking a biopolitical concern for prisoners'’ safety from sexual violence, the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission contribute to operations of necropolitical power against prisoners in two ways: through reinforcing fantasies of sexually violent black and brown bodies and through expanding state-sanctioned sexual violence against those bodies. Prisoners live on a continuum between biopolitics and necropolitics, and racialized constructions of gender and sexuality determine how their bodies slide along the continuum. However, antiviolence advocates have too often failed to strategize against the necropolitical operations of state power, instead acting as if they are only confronting the biopolitical aspects of the state. An examination of the report issued by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission reveals a consistent biopolitical vision of the state's relationship to sexual violence, despite the fact that the report documents numerous situations in which injuries and deaths of prisoners are being actively caused by state actions. Moving beyond the limiting framework of state benevolence, alternate advocacy paths can work to limit state involvement while promoting erotic and bodily autonomy. Abstract retrieved from jstor.

Jackson, Jessi Lee (2013). Sexual necropolitics and prison rape elimination. Signs, 39 (1): 197-220. 

Prison Rape: An American Institution?

Michael Singer
Praeger (2013)

Michael Singer explores the empirical, legal, and socio-cultural factors of rape in prison. "Each year, as many as 200,000 individuals are victims of various types of sexual abuse perpetrated in American prisons, jails, juvenile detention facilities, and lockups. As many as 80,000 of them suffer violent or repeated rape. Those who are outside the incarceration experience are largely unaware of this ongoing physical and mental damage--abuses that not only affect the victims and perpetrators, but also impose vast costs on society as a whole. This book supplies a uniquely full account of this widespread sexual abuse problem. Author Michael Singer has drawn on official reports to provide a realistic assessment of the staggering financial cost to society of this sexual abuse, and comprehensively addressed the current, severely limited legal procedures for combating sexual abuse in incarceration. The book also provides an evaluation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 and its recently announced national standards, and assesses their likely future impact on the institution of prison rape in America. Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Singer, Michael (2013). Prison rape: An American institution? Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Prison Rape: Law, Media, and Meaning

Michael A. Smyth
LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC (2011)

Focusing on discourse generated between 1969 and 2006 in the legal arena and in the print news media, the author takes an historical-interpretive approach to illuminate the role of cultural forces and attendant ideologies in shaping the contours of the phenomenon commonly known as "prison rape." Locating this work within the sociology of punishment, the author employs frame analysis and draws on two previously unrelated literatures Garland's cultural analytic model and constitutive legal scholarship to produce a genealogy of discourse about sexual assault in carceral settings as manifest in two important arenas of meaning making. In addition to providing a detailed analysis of the often counterintuitive relationship between these discourses over time, the book considers the recent unanimous passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (2003) at a highly punitive historical moment in a nation that has traditionally preferred to litigate rather than legislate questions around the treatment of those it incarcerates. Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Smyth, Michael A. (2011). Prison rape: Law, media, and meaning. El Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC.

New Hope For Victims of Prison Sexual Assault

Article : Julie Samia Mair, Shannon Frattaroli, & Stephen P Teret
The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, 31 (4): 602-606 (2003)

Currently in the US over two million people are incarcerated, and sexual assaults in prisons are a reality of many US correctional institutions. Recently, in less than a week and by unanimous consent in both the House and Senate, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. As Mair et al expound, the Act is a comprehensive and ambitious piece of legislation, intending to foster an understanding of prison sexual assault and its impact on individuals, families, and society with the ultimate goal of prevention. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Mair, Julie Samia; Frattaroli, Shannon & Teret, Stephen P. (2003). New hope for victims of prison sexual assault. The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, 31 (4): 602-606.

Symposium: Indifferent No More: People of Faith Mobilize to End Prison Rape

Pat Nolan & Marguertie Telford
Journal of Legislation, 32 (129) (2006)

Polite society is uncomfortable with the subject of prison rape. Until recently, talk of prison rape was largely confined to the ribald humor of late night talk show hosts. There has been little serious public discussion despite being labeled "America's most "open' secret." Yet in 2003 President Bush signed into law the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which Congress unanimously passed. This article will examine the impact of a unique coalition of civil rights groups and religious organizations that pressed prison rape onto Congress' agenda, and the continuing role people of conscience must play if the horror of prison rape is to be eliminated from America's prisons. Abstract retrieved from HEIN Online.

Nolan, Pat; Telford, Marguertie (2006). Symposium: Indifferent no more: People of faith mobilize to end prison rape. Journal of Legislation, 32 (129).

Cross-Gender Supervision in Prison and the Constitutional Right of Prisoners to Remain Free from Rape

Flyn L. Flesher
William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 13 (3): 841-866 (2007)

A variety of state, federal, and international laws theoretically prohibit sexual abuse of prisoners by the guards hired by the state to oversee them. Nevertheless, sexual abuse of female prisoners by male prison guards is a rampant phenomenon that the law has thus far failed to remedy. Cross-gender supervision policies exacerbate the problem by placing women in situations in which they have no escape from their attackers. These policies, which are as dangerous for some prisoners as they are humiliating to all prisoners, have generally withstood scrutiny in courts. This note attempts to reframe the arguments challenging cross- gender supervision policies and proposes a more narrowly tailored constitutional claim against them. Clearly establishing the causal link between cross-gender supervision policies and custodial sexual abuse could convince courts to enjoin prisons from hiring male guards to oversee female prisoners in contact positions. Such a result would hopefully both stem the tide of sexual abuse in prisons while simultaneously improving conditions of confinement for female prisoners by restricting prisons from adopting these degrading policies. Abstract retrieved from AELE Legal Center.

Flesher, Flyn L. (2007). Cross-gender supervision in prison and the constitutional right of prisoners to remain free from rape. William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 13 (3): 841-866.

Prison Rape: Have We Done Enough? A Deep Look Into the Adequacy of the Prison Rape Elimination Act

Jerita L. DeBraux
Howard Law Journal, 50 (1): 203-227 (2006)

Until recently, prison rape was the “elephant in the room” of the American prison system. Non-prisoners and prisoners alike knew prison rape existed, yet the legal system was reluctant to directly address this prevalent and unfortunate problem. Not until 1994 did the Supreme Court first constitutionally recognize the problem of prison rape in the landmark case Farmer v. Brennan, which held that a prison guard violates the United States Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment if she “ignores a substantial risk of serious harm” to the inmate. However, the extremely high burden of culpability required to prove such a claim made the judicial remedy insufficient to stop the problem. The most recent effort to combat prison rape came in 2003, when Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act4 (Act) in response to the horrific impacts of prison rape on prisoners and the community at large. Although it appears that the Act is Congress’s good faith effort to eliminate prison rape, it is an inadequate remedy because it focuses primarily on the symptoms of prison rape and does not sufficiently eliminate the causes. This Article examines the weaknesses of the Act and proposes alternate remedies to combat prison rape that may supplement legislative efforts. Part I of this Article discusses the social and institutional causes of prison rape from an interdisciplinary perspective, including the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and criminology. Part II provides background information on the Act and explains why the articulated remedy is inadequate to eliminate prison rape. Part III discusses Farmer v. Brennan and other ineffective judicial efforts to combat prison rape. Part IV discusses the link between prison rape and its overwhelming effects on the rise of HIV infections in the Black community as another incentive for Congress to strengthen their efforts to end prison rape. Part V discusses possible solutions to prison rape along with possible improvements to the Act. This Article concludes by emphasizing Congress’ role in eliminating prison rape by strengthening the act. Abstract retrieved from Wiley Rein LLP.

DeBraux, Jerita L.  (2006). Prison rape: Have we done enough? A deep look into the adequacy of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Howard Law Journal, 50 (1): 203-227.

Duty-to-protect claims by inmates after the Prison Rape Elimination Act

David K. Ries
Journal of Law and Policy, 13 (2): 915-989 (2005)

This note explores the potential uses of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in litigation brought by inmates against prison officials for “deliberate indifference” to the threat of rape. Part I describes the procedures used and the obstacles faced by prisoners who bring lawsuits challenging the conditions of their imprisonment. Part II discusses the Supreme Court’s “deliberate indifference” standard for holding prison supervisors liable for Eighth Amendment violations and examines the application of this standard by the federal courts to claims brought by prisoners in response to assaults within prisons. Part III presents a review of the PREA and outlines some of the prison programs that could be implemented as a result of the legislation. Lastly, Part IV of this note discusses ways in which future plaintiffs who sue prison officials for deliberate indifference to a risk of sexual assault will be able to use the PREA in their lawsuits. Abstract retrieved from Washington College of Law.

Ries, David K. (2005). Duty-to-protect claims by inmates after the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Journal of Law and Policy, 13 (2): 915-989.

The Gender of Racial Politics and Violence in America: Lynching, Prison Rape, & the Crisis of Masculinity

William F. Pinar
Peter Lang International Academic Publishers (2001)

Perhaps not since Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 classic An American Dilemma has a book appeared as synoptic and unsettling as The Gender of Racial Politics and Violence in America. Here William F. Pinar elucidates the great «American dilemma», that «peculiar» institution of racial subjugation, especially its gendered - and specifically «queer» - psychosexual dynamics. Explicating in detail two imprinting episodes in American racial history - lynching and prison rape - Pinar argues that the gender of racial politics and violence in America is in some fundamental sense «queer». This book will be of interest to students in education, cultural studies, African American studies, women’s and gender studies, and history. Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Pinar, William F. (2001). The gender of racial politics and violence in America: Lynching, prison rape, and the crisis of masculinity. New York, NY: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers.

Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapist

Angela Y. Davis
Random House (1981)

"Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapist" provides an excellent analysis of the phenomenon of lynching and the past and present sexual abuse of Black women by white men; however, Davis' argument is weakened by her attempts to excuse the public advocacy of rape by Eldridge Cleaver and Imamu Baraka. Even if their writing were, as Davis claims, "absurd and purposely sensational," the fact is that all women are vulnerable to rape by all men, and the use of misogynist, threatening language and ideas by men of color in their own fight for liberation is no more excusable than was Stanton's and Anthony's espousal of racist arguments in the attempt to secure the vote for women. Review retrieved from feminist reprise.

Davis, Angela Y. (1981). Rape, racism, and the myth of the black rapist. Women, race, and class. New York: Random House.

Joan Little: The Dialectics of Rape

Angela Y. Davis
Lang Communications (1975)

Joan Little may not only have been the victim of a rape attempt by a white racist jailer; she has truly been raped and wronged many times over by the exploitative and discriminatory institutions of this society. All people who see themselves as members of the existing community of struggle for justice, equality, and progress have a responsibility to fulfill toward Joan Little. Those of us-women and men -who are black or people of color must understand the connection between racism and sexism that is so strikingly manifested in her case. Those of us who are white and women must grasp the issue of male supremacy in relationship to the racism and class bias which complicate and exacerbate it. Abstract retrieved from Ms. Magazine.

Davis, Angela Y. (1975). Joan Little: The dialectics of rape. New York: Lang Communications.