Prison Rape

In today’s culture, the title alone is likely to get a half smirk out of some of you reading this. I had never thought about it before, but prison rape is more often than not portrayed in a humorous fashion in our country. From stand-up to featured films, the severity of the actual occurrence rarely makes its way to the surface.

Instead it is represented by the comedic relief of the absurdly gay-acting guy in prison garb who talks with a lisp and applies lipstick. It’s represented by the ironically named four hundred pound inmate when comedians talk about doing time. Even in a society as sensitive to human rights as ours, this aspect of our prison system walks around in broad daylight with hardly a whisper of protest.

To be honest, I’ve never thought about it in this frame of mind either. I was like millions of Americans who just accepted it for what it is. People go to prison, and when they do, they get raped. Come on, isn’t that funny?

Wasn’t the little Latino guy in ConAir, HILARIOUS? Or how about the comic routine about “tossing salads?” What about your coworker who intimately describes the hypothetical “Tiny” who’s going to rape the child molester that was found guilty the night before on the evening news?

And all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem quite so funny anymore.

It gets more real, and all of a sudden a few people stop laughing. It’s not on the behalf of the offender, though, but on behalf of the victim… of the child. The laughter doesn’t stop because all of a sudden the reality comes crashing down and its horror becomes apparent, but because the reality comes crashing down, and it’s what we want.

For the guy who gets a parking ticket and has to spend the night with Moose, it’s funny, but that humor is informed by the murderer who goes to prison and actually does get raped because, in the end, he deserves it.

At least, that’s the mentality. While it is flawed, our system is comparably humane when stacked up against other penal systems around the world. For some, it’s not humane enough, but for others it is too humane.

It is as though in some instances we adopt this warped idea of justice, and our prison system, especially among those who have never stepped foot inside a prison (I actually have), does not deliver. We read editorials about cable tv, and see movies and television programs that depict an edgy, yet almost romantic image of prison. A hard life, but not altogether a bad life.

And being someone’s “bitch” is all a part of it. In fact it is that part of it that those who who think prison life is too easy approve of the most.

But I firmly believe that the measure of a society is how it treats the least among its number, and the fight for human rights is not a selective one. My own views of justice aside, the actions of a person do not always justify the actions taken against that person.

We have a system, an imperfect system that is constantly being revised and updated. But at its heart lies the simple concept of forcing violators of the law to repay their debt to society while at the same time treating them in a humane and GOOD fashion. For far too many, the concept of prison rape is a way to bypass that when we can no longer keep our emotions from overtaking our common decency.

But it’s wrong. Just as torture is wrong, and for me at least, the death penalty is wrong. As a society, it is in our best interest to have a system of punishment established to deter negative behavior, but as moral beings, it serves our best interests and our souls to ensure that that system doesn’t go too far.

I wanted to thank and commend Ed Morrissey of all people who actually has me thinking on this topic more than I ever have before. He says there are tough decision to be made, but that they are worth making, and I completely agree. It’s a difficult debate, and one that members of opposing ideologies could easily tear each other up over, but I’d love to have that debate with him any time he wishes.

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