Scoop! Jailhouse Rape

Torture is a way of life for women behind bars

| March/April 1999

Despite the recent get-tough-on-criminals rhetoric, life behind bars has never been cushy. And, according to a recent study by Human Rights Watch, conditions for women inmates have become particularly terrifying. 'There's a Bosnia-like epidemic of rape and psychosexual torture going on inside America's prisons,' report Christopher Cook and Christian Parenti in In These Times (Dec. 27, 1998). 'In public and private facilities across the United States, female inmates are routinely forced into performing stripteases, lap dances, and sexual favors.' And though some women have successfully filed civil suits against officials who allow such practices, legal action is becoming increasingly rare, Cook and Parenti note. The 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act requires inmates to pay exorbitant court fees and imposes stiff fines for lawsuits the courts define as frivolous. 'Prison rape is aided and abetted by a legal system in which inmates are deemed incurable criminals, forever guilty until proven innocent,' they write. 'Prisoners have few allies or legal protections, and what avenues for recourse they do have are being cut off. In These Times, 2040 N. Milwaukee Av., Chicago, IL 60647. Subscriptions: $36.95/yr. (24 issues).