Among the most disturbing trends in American comedies is not the growing incidence of groin kicks (common in even chidren's movies today). It is the fact that jokes about prison rape are now so common as to be expected in any movie or television show about jails or prisons. Recent studies, however, show sexual abuse in prison is no laughing matter. And even more surprising, a huge number of them are perpetrated not prisoner-on-prisoner, but guard-on-prisoner.
How many people are really victimized every year? Recent BJS studies using a “snapshot” technique have found that, of those incarcerated on the days the surveys were administered, about 90,000 had been abused in the previous year, but as we have argued previously, those numbers were also misleadingly low. Finally, in January, the Justice Department published its first plausible estimates. In 2008, it now says, more than 216,600 people were sexually abused in prisons and jails and, in the case of at least 17,100 of them, in juvenile detention. Overall, that’s almost six hundred people a day—twenty-five an hour.It is time to stop trivializing this horrible phenomenon, and recognize it as a very, very bad thing. Convicts give up many of their rights when they commit a crime and are convicted. But ensuring basic human rights is something we should always do, because otherwise we are all dehumanized.