Friday, January 22, 2010

Would You Help?

Feministing posted the above photos from Just Detention International's new campaign against prison rape. I really like this because it humanizes a group (felons) that has been scapegoated and severely mistreated in our society.

I first became upset about the way prisoners are treated in the USA by reading a book in a college women's studies class that I unfortunately can't remember the title or author of. It's the true story of a woman who runs away from her family to America before she is to have her genitals mutilated in order to prepare her for a marriage she doesn't want. In the USA, she doesn't have proper paperwork so she is thrown in prison, where she would remain for many years. The conditions she and the other "detainees" are subjected too were horrific and terrifying. Only after a very long, hard struggle on her behalf by American citizens is she finally allowed to leave the country. This book infuriated me and stayed on my mind for quite a long time.

I am also distressed about the state of prisons and what happens to their inmates because my dearly loved uncle spent over 10 years incarcerated. I don't want to say anything specific, but he's told me some horror stories about his time there... about how the main walk had to be washed off every day to keep the blood from drying on it, about how you cannot avoid being raped because you may be able to fight, but you can't fight 5 or 6 men all at once every day for your entire jail sentence, so they'll get you sooner or later. This and many other stories break my heart and fill me with respect for him to have gone through all of that and still be such a strong, kind man.

Both as an activist and as a rape survivor, I am so angry that being given a prison sentence is about same thing as condemning a person to be raped over and over again. This is so fucked up, I don't understand how it can continue to go on for years and years and years and years and everyone's mostly totally okay with it.

Just another symptom of our sick, sick society. One more thing I wish I could change by closing my eyes and hoping really hard. Because I sign petitions all the time about this stuff... and it basically feels like doing the same thing.

Related posts:
It's Not Sex When It's Rape
Human Rights are Meaningless in America
Close Guantanamo!


Jules Bowen said...

Very insightful. Thank you for this.

Jason said...

While i don't know your uncle's story, most people in prison deserve to be there. Plain and simple. Sure, there are mistakes and good people get locked up because of hate, money or lack thereof, etc; but more than 90% of the prison pop is made up bad people. Face it, at some point in time, the convict made a very bad decision that impacted more lives than s/he ever thought imaginable. Sure, s/he may be sorry and truly did not mean to cause the harm to family & friends...but it happened all the same. So do you give a free pass because he said sorry and doesn't want to get raped in prison?
In America we allow criminals to serve prison sentences to pay their debt to society. If a con does his time and acts nice, he gets out. free as a bird. Even the sick fucks who beat women and rape infants is included in this group who gets a fair shake. Yes, you may think our "sick, sick society" gives fellow prisoners the right to rape and pillage any new convict, but you know that is not correct.

May said...

I am against prison on principle. They don't work to make crime less of a problem, going to prison can ruin a person's entire life even after they are released they are still not real citizens anymore, and most of the people in prison are there because of racial profiling. I think prisons should be done away with and a system where someone does something wrong and then can heal and make restitution for it should be what we use. Instead, we scape goat people who made a bad mistake and happened to get caught and say they deserve it. Going to prison affects how people see you, hire you and interact with you.

I'm not saying what my uncle did was right and that's not my problem. But what he didn't deserve is to be shut away in a place where he was exposed to violence that is ILLEGAL! That is absolutely fucked up. Enforcing the law by putting people who break it in a place where it is broken more? That is absolute nonsense and it doesn't do anyone any good.

Applecart T. said...

yes, adding illegal violence to the sentence de facto is wrong. i wish that more people would talk about this (who have experience … but most people don't like to talk about being raped).

i would posit that ex-cons are "real people."

also, i would encourage us to look up some stats. while racial profiling plays some part in the make-up of our HUGE prison population, a large part of them are there b/c of how certain drugs are illegal and we have a war on them … unsanctioned businessmen, so to speak. what kind of sentences did those enron execs get, for example?

the united states' FOR PROFIT prison system makes me ill. the justice system has its troubles, too, but works decently, sort of, especially with the help of organizations like the innocence project.

apparently 25% of cases in which dna has proven innocence (there have been about 235 or so; i am finding conflicting data), false confessions are a factor (crummy/ coercive police investigation techniques).

there are cases in which people's professed innocence is proven wrong by dna, too.