The Problem of Prison Rape

A call for accountability in one man's lawsuit

| October 20, 2005

Roderick Keith Johnson, a gay 37-year-old ex-con, was a sex slave to five different prison gangs over the course of an 18-month stint at a maximum-security unit in Iowa Park, Texas. Gang members repeatedly raped him, and for a price usually between $5 and $10, other inmates bought his services from gang members. In March 2002, lawyers from the ACLU's National Prison Project brought a suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice alleging that prison officials ignored his requests to be transferred to safer quarters and, consequently, violated his constitutional right protecting him from cruel and unusual punishment, Daniel Brook wrote in a Legal Affairs piece last year.

On Tuesday, October 18, a Texas jury rejected Johnson's lawsuit, The Associated Press reports. Criminal justice professors and civil rights activists had speculated that a win for Johnson in Texas could have been a catalyst for reform. The ACLU and the California-based group Stop Prisoner Rape say they receive more rape complaints from prisoners in Texas than any other state, according to a United Press International story.

While most courts and prison officials have generally viewed inmate rape 'as a problem without a solution,' there are some prison systems that have taken steps toward reform, according to Brook. San Francisco County now builds jails so that an officer standing in a guard station can see inside every cell on the block. Also, prisoners are separated based on their likelihood of harming other inmates. While there's been some success, prison rape continues to occur. Studies have found that more than 20 percent of male prisoners are forced into sexual contact.
-- Archie Ingersoll

Go there >> The Problem of Prison Rape

Go there too >> Jurors Reject Texas Prison Rape Lawsuit

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