Accepting torture

datePosted on 17:02, March 15th, 2009 by Anita

Between even more travelling for work than usual and a cold I’ve been a bit beyond writing, although my list of half written posts has grown :)  Of everything that’s gone on recently it’s the issue of prison rape that’s been closest to a coherent thought. More precisely, why do we accept prison rape?

Since David Garrett’s offensive comments plenty of people have talked about the idea of rape-as-a-part-of-your-punishment and I’ve particularly liked:

  • Idiot/Savant’s “Creature Comforts” which neatly ties the issue back to ACT’s anti human rights agenda.
  • Maia’s Reasonable Opinions which points out that comments like Garrett’s make it clear that some people are rapeable. The comments thread, while heated, is worth a read too!

All of the MSM commentary, and most of the on-line discussion, has taken for granted that prison rape occurs. Where is the analysis of how much prison rape occurs and what is, or could be, done to to eradicate it?

When did prison rape gain acceptance as a normal and inevitable part of our society? What would it take to change that?

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10 Responses to “Accepting torture”

  1. QoT on March 15th, 2009 at 22:00

    When did prison rape gain acceptance as a normal and inevitable part of our society? What would it take to change that?

    Well, given I can remember primary-school jokes about “don’t drop the soap!! LOL” from a time before any of us even had the faintest idea what anal intercourse was … it’s going to take a hell of a lot. And a country where the likes of David Garrett get elected AND taken seriously as commentators is not the country that’s going to make it happen.

  2. reid on March 15th, 2009 at 22:40

    And a country where the likes of David Garrett get elected AND taken seriously as commentators is not the country that’s going to make it happen.

    Perhaps it happens because people tolerate it. Perhaps people tolerate it because they don’t understand what justice is. Perhaps those who do understand what justice is just aren’t serious enough about it to make stopping it a priority, in the country we ALL live in.

    Personally, I’m a big fan of holding criminal people to account and that means I’m in favour of long prison sentences (amongst other things, like early intervention that actually achieves something), but I’m also a fan of tolerating absolutely no brutality in prison – physical or psychological.

    To some my position is an oxymoron since some seem to believe that prison is the wrong answer no matter what the question. However I think the only answer to prison violence of all kinds is ubiquitous and unbreakable 24/7 CCTV surveillance in every single nook and cranny and extremely harsh penalties such as an additional 10 years served – no parole possible, even for minor violent offending.

    Namby pamby stuff doesn’t work on people who have progressed to the point whereby they’re not only in prison but they’re prepared to commit violence against their fellow inmates, therefore penalties have to be extremely harsh and escape from a penalty has to be unavoidable. It would be nice if it were otherwise, but it’s not.

    At the same time I’d grant complete immunity from prosecution to anyone who could be shown to defend themselves against an attack based on the CCTV footage.

    Technical difficulties inherent in creating such a CCTV environment that the inmates could not thwart, are not insurmountable. I wish it were otherwise but unfortunately, harsh consequences that are utterly unavoidable is the only thing that will stop these angry people from taking out their own shortcomings upon their fellow non-aggressive inmates, apart from a genuine religious conversion of course. Perhaps we could try the latter after we try the former.

  3. Lew on March 16th, 2009 at 09:59

    reid,

    I think the only answer to prison violence of all kinds is ubiquitous and unbreakable 24/7 CCTV surveillance in every single nook and cranny

    The prison you describe was designed by Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th Century, named panopticon, and has formed the basic design principle of prisons since (as well as other spaces where people need to be controlled; the Soviets and Chinese used it most effectively for railway stations and such). The problem to be solved, as usual, was a logistical one: the lack of sufficient resources to watch each prisoner individually all the time. The panopticon design was intended to make it impossible for a prisoner to know whether they were under observation or not, and relied on them assuming they were, which would enable the prison to be manned by fewer guards. The prime imperative of the design was to make social control easier and cheaper, not more thorough. Although CCTV has made the panopticon more technically straightforward to implement, that constraint remains: that many cameras, with that many people watching them (or reviewing footage, etc) is not cheap.

    There are also problems in principle with your schema. First, it relies on prisoners continuing to behave as they do now, rather than resorting to less-violent or less-observably-violent forms of coercion. This could possibly be a beneficial effect but wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem; rape is rape no matter whether it was preceded by a fistfight or a more subtle threat. Second, deterrent effects are much more strongly linked to certainty of apprehension than severity of punishment. The initially-expensive bit of the panopticon is in the installation, maintenance and monitoring, but the strong focus on long sentences will compound the problem by keeping more people in the panopticon for longer, requiring an ever-larger infrastructure of control.

    Since the idea of double-bunking is essentially a cost-saving device, it seems absurd to throw out the scheme we have in the name of expense, and replace it with another, more expensive one. The fact is that we don’t value these sorts of incidents enough to dedicate sufficient resources to preventing or prosecuting them – a certain amount of certain types of violence will always be tacitly deemed acceptable in prison, as it is in society.

    L

  4. jcuknz on March 16th, 2009 at 10:45

    I would have thought that if the obstruction was a serious an offence as the act then it would matter little if the prisoner was silly enought to obstruct with the idea of commiting the offence, the end result would be the same.

    It seems to me that double bunking is encouraging the offence …. perhaps, God help us, it is an ‘accceptable’ part of ‘that’ society. Or is it just that society is more open about these things these days. We do not hide table legs anymore.

  5. George Darroch on March 16th, 2009 at 11:18

    I don’t think there is cause for despair just yet. The United States saw a very successful ‘Stop Prisoner Rape’ campaign and the Prison Rape Elimination Act eventuating from this. I don’t have time to go into it in detail, but it’s worth examining.

  6. Deepred on March 16th, 2009 at 11:46

    When did prison rape gain acceptance as a normal and inevitable part of our society? What would it take to change that?

    It’d be unfortunate, but maybe these would be what it takes to jolt some people out of their faith-based night-vision goggles.

    Wikipedia – Attica Prison riots
    Reeves County prison riot>Another GEO Group Prison Riot Caused by Medical Neglect
    Private Prison Riot at New Castle, Indiana – also run by GEO Group

  7. BLiP on March 16th, 2009 at 15:54

    GB

    I don’t think there is cause for despair just yet. The United States saw a very successful ‘Stop Prisoner Rape’ campaign and the Prison Rape Elimination Act eventuating from this. I don’t have time to go into it in detail, but it’s worth examining.

    Actually, there is increasing reason for despair in light of the National government’s plans to adbicate the state’s responsibility and hand over the care of prisoners to the lowest bidding multinational.

    Also, the “Stop Prisoner Rape” programme was most successul in those prisons where inmates had their own cells – your mates over at Act are trying to double-bunk them.

  8. Random Lurker on March 16th, 2009 at 16:02

    When did prison rape gain acceptance as a normal and inevitable part of our society?

    American films perhaps? That’s certainly where I was introduced to the concept of not dropping the soap.

  9. James on March 16th, 2009 at 16:15

    What rubbish….and Idiot Savant is hardly a cedible source for anything….[ad hominem excised]

    David Garrett has been selectivly quoted outside of the context in which he has said things.

    He does not advocate rape as punishment….he quite clearly says that rape is a crime wherever it occurs and it should be dealt with.The point he was making was that if you commit crime then expect to go to jail and jails can be unpleasent…a fair and uncontroversial statement of fact to most Kiwis except those of the hang wringing fact distorting left.Its a fact that rape does occur in prison…its a black joke throught our culture that you will be butt stuffed if you go inside..its also a major deterrant playing in mens minds about being sent to prison.Its not right that it happens….no one has said it is…just that if it bothers you then make sure you are never in the position of being sent there for commision of a crime….and fair enough too.

    Having met David over the weekend its clear the media and certain intrest have spun a web of distrotion about this man and his views.

    Hes no conservative…he is a advocate for voluntary euthanasia,enjoys a beer and a joke,cares greatly for the victims of criminals and doesn’t waste time sweating on the poor dears who savagely violate the rights of their fellow citizens….’if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime’would sum up Davids, and most Kiwis view.

    He was in favour of the death penalty about 10 years ago….he even wrote a book about it…but hasn’t held that position for years….like most people his views have changed over time.

    He is very focused on getting 3 strikes into law as he has massive evidence it will save lives and deter criminals….and no this law as he’s assembeling it does not vuiolate any real rights whatso ever and as a classic liberal Im perfectly happy with it…indeed I,and others may even think its TOO liberal in regards to allowing 3 strikes.But as David said Kiwis like to think they are a fair people who can allow someone a second chance to live a decent life…so the prospect of hope is held out to those who heed the warnings.

    I gave him some Liberal raeding material and he told me he agreed with 95% of what he had read….he shoots from the lip with his quick wit and realises that that is being used against him by certain media types looking for a story.Hes a rough diamond but a good guy and an asset to ACT….the only party in Parliment that actually does understand real human rights and the principles that go with them….unlike others.

  10. reid on March 16th, 2009 at 23:50

    There are also problems in principle with your schema. First, it relies on prisoners continuing to behave as they do now, rather than resorting to less-violent or less-observably-violent forms of coercion. This could possibly be a beneficial effect but wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem; rape is rape no matter whether it was preceded by a fistfight or a more subtle threat. Second, deterrent effects are much more strongly linked to certainty of apprehension than severity of punishment. The initially-expensive bit of the panopticon is in the installation, maintenance and monitoring, but the strong focus on long sentences will compound the problem by keeping more people in the panopticon for longer, requiring an ever-larger infrastructure of control.

    Don’t really care how it’s done, Lew. Another way is to segregate prisoners according to their crime. I doubt that white-collar crims and peodophiles are going to attack each other but put them in general pop and obvious things happen. What I was describing was a way to eliminate it, which while not perfect seems better than any others, of which there are none.

    Thanks for the panopticon ref.

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