Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Breaking Down Some Bars

If you've been reading the blog lately, you will probably remember some posts last week about women in prison. I wrote one last week about a court case in Illinois where some former inmates are sueing for being shackled while in labor, and my buddy Emily wrote one about the creation of "butch wings" in some prisons. Both of these situations are pretty unbelievable, and have increased my interest in the prison system. Seriously, I watched four straight episodes of MSNBC's Lock-Up one night last week.

While both of those stories highlight some pretty awful aspects of the prison system, and illustrate just how much needs to be done to insure the safety and dignity of prisoners, the New York Times has an Associated Press story today that gives us a little hope for some reform. If prisons don't start implementing steps to try to reduce rape and sexual violence, they will lose 5% of their federal funding. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has released a report today on their findings, which include the fact that female, young, gay, and short inmates are more likely to be victimized.

While there will be some time before we can see how effective the strategies are, this is a good first step in reducing sexual violence and rape in prisons. As I said before, just because a person has committed a crime, that does not justify cruel treatment in prison and it certainly does not justify the high rates of rape within our prison system.

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