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“It isn’t presidential”

posted by David Kuo

I am moved by Joe Carter’s post on America’s silent shame of prison rape:

We are justifiably outraged by the human rights abuses occurring in foreign lands. So why aren’t we more outraged by the atrocities here in our own country? Our reactions to the problem tend to range from smirking indifference to embarrassed silence. Yet rape and other forms of sexual assault are becoming endemic to our prison system.
In 2004 the corrections industry estimated that 12,000 rapes occurred per year—more than the annual number of reported rapes in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York combined. In a 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, though, more than 60,000 inmates claimed to have been sexually victimized by other inmates during the previous 12 months.

The post reminded me of something, I remembered sitting in a West Wing office in late 2002 having an emergency discussion on compassion issues with senior White House officials. We had to do something big on these issues and we had to do it quickly because the White House had gotten whacked on them. Various ideas were thrown around and one of them was the horror of prison rape. One staffer made a very convincing case that this was exactly the sort of issue President Bush should be talking about – it was a real problem where the federal government could have a significant impact through new legislation and through enforcement of prisoner protection in federal prisons.
It was an idea gathering momentum before one more senior member of the White House said, “Enough. Got it. Problem. But prison rape isn’t presidential. Next topic.”
This official was, objectively, right. It would be odd to hear a president talking about such things. But as Joe points out, “The fact that so many Americans are appalled and angered by the human rights abuses in countries like Syria, Iraq, and China speaks well of our nation. But we must hold our own country to the same standards. We can’t look away from the sexual torture, assault, slavery, and abuses that are rampant in our own system. Concern for human right must extend beyond both the water’s edge and the prison doors.”



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Trudy Schuett

posted April 2, 2008 at 2:52 am


One of the biggest, if not THE biggest reasons prison rape isn’t discussed or adressed is that the victims in these cases are, by and large, male. These days male victims of sexual assault or even domestic violence just don’t count. In fact, the Federal Violence Against Women Act of 1994 defines nearly all assault and abuse as crimes against women only, with only men being the offenders.
It is a terrible situation for both sexes, because the whole issue is being approached in the general population as a political issue, one of the last issues in which the old hardline, extremist feminists still have any power. And of course the old feminists have no interest in doing anything to aid men.
This is a complex, and highly emotional issue I’ve been studying since 2000, and until VAWA, with its basis in radical feminism and advocacy research, is recognized as the huge mistake that it was, we can hardly even begin to make any approach that is rational and free of political agenda.
Prison rape is just one facet of a much larger problem that needs serious, and open, consideration outside the political arena. Very few politicians have any understanding of the issues; if they did we’d not be in the place we are today. So far all legislation has done is send the issue down a wrong path, and end up helping almost no one.
Obviously, I could go on about this. There’s more info at The Domestic Abuse Helpline.
A book I wrote about a male victim is here
Sorry for going on so long!



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Brian Horan

posted April 2, 2008 at 5:43 am


Jesus: ‘As you’ve treated the least of these, you’ve treated me.’
It’s worth stating the obvious:
Our prison system, which houses more citizens per capita than any other country, is not a system which rehabilitates. To be quite honest, if I was gonna be put in some of those facilities (guilty or innocent), I think I’d run for Mexico or kill myself.
State run mental health facilities aren’t that great either in many parts of the country.
There are some things I’d never wish on anybody. Our systems for the maladjusted say some sad things about our society.
Those corrupted by the system, some starting out in juvenile centers, can come back to haunt our society.



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And, today too.

posted April 2, 2008 at 6:30 am


When all else fails, bash America? Obama making you sweat David? “We can’t look away from the sexual torture, assault, slavery, and abuses that are rampant in our own system.” When those of us “on the right,” try to bring these topics to the forefront of issues, you guys “on the Left” call us bigots and homophobes. Sexuality is so permissive now, prison rape is seen as just another gay right. The program OZ, on HBO, had an inmate start out getting raped and tortured over and over by some thug, and ending up having a “beautiful,” loving, relationship with some other “guy” in prison. Welcome to Sodom David. And it’s not just America.



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Brian Horan

posted April 2, 2008 at 1:14 pm


And, today too says: “When all else fails, bash America?”
This is Bush-bot-FOX news-Rush Limbaugh brain programming at it’s best. Knee jerk/Visceral reactions to anything that involves compassion or self-reflection.
The anti-Christ is alive and well in the Neocon movement.



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Boone

posted April 2, 2008 at 2:08 pm


How many other issues of a sexual nature “Aren’t Presidential”?
Prison Rape? Child Pornography? Beastiality? Date Rape? Sado-Masochism? Teen Suicide (as a result of being a victim of rape)? Prostitution? Forced Sexual Slavery? Forced child rape and incest?
All of these are going on in our country every day, and it is appalling to think that it is beneath some of our elected officials to do what is right and clean these problems up. If, as a society, we can not take care of the most disgusting and heinous of crimes, we are worthy of whatever comes down the pike to us. Terrible. Just terrible.
I applaud you for standing up for some of the victims of these crimes. Being incarcerated does not mean that you should forfeit all dignity and all of your rights. In Topeka, Kansas a few years ago, within a 6 month period there were 6 people who died while in custody. There was nary an uproar because there is a mentality that if people are under arrest, they deserve what happens to them. Sad, just sad.
I would only ask you this though, when Jeffrey Dahlmer, the man who was convicted of killing and eating his neighbors several years ago, was killed by being beaten to death in prison… what was your reaction when you heard the news?



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canucklehead

posted April 2, 2008 at 3:45 pm


This morning in going thru some archives I was reminded that in May 1982 when a female Member of Parliament here in Canada stood up in the House of Commons and began a brief speech with “today, 1 out of 10 women in Canada are beaten by their husbands,” the predominantly male House responded with raucous laughter.
Myopia, thou art not a jewel.



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recovering ex-Pentecostal

posted April 2, 2008 at 4:01 pm


“prison rape is seen as just another gay right”
That is just about the vilest, sickest thing I have ever had the misfortune to read – anywhere, nevermind here on Beliefnet.
Rape has nothing to do with homosexuality OR heterosexuality. It is assault, pure and simple.
If you want not to be called “bigots and homophobes”, stop saying bigoted and homophobic things.
Plus, you could do a little research on the story of Sodom.



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canucklehead

posted April 2, 2008 at 5:09 pm


Ex-P: I’m not sure that Donny, aka And, today too, aka God only knows what other titles I’ll use, etc, should be construed as speaking on behalf of Beliefnet on homosexuality or any other topic
I do, however, concur w/ your view re “the vilest, sickest thing I have ever…”



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Doug

posted April 2, 2008 at 5:51 pm


The meeting you describe was a political one, obviously. It isn’t very important to me whether or not the President includes prison rape in his State of The Union address, but it’s appalling that whether or not something sounds good on the President’s tongue determines whether action should be taken. It’s also appalling that anyone would say that expecting the American government to live up to its own stated values constitutes America bashing. It reminds me of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “Christian,” to wit: “One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.”



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Jillian

posted April 2, 2008 at 7:21 pm


It’s always funny and yet sad to hear lame excuses for not doing anything. While prison rape/abuse is not “Presidential” material, guess what: it could be dealt with without involving the President. But the 2001 White House was evidently not about sharing or ignoring credit, it wasn’t about changing incarceration doctrine from punitive to rehabilitative, it wasn’t about taking poor people seriously, or anything of the kind. It was literally about trying to effect changes with niceness and cheapness and for political gain, when actual change requires principledness, generosity, and expending “political capital”.
I would love to have seen John deIulio, Marvin Olasky, and the rest actually meet some religious people who did serious good. The 1940s/50s American Friends’ Service Committee would be a pretty good example of all that ‘compassionate conservatism’ was evidently not. (It’s always funny how other American Christian groups, when they actually get serious, ultimately reinvent and rediscover things that Quakers did and knew long ago.) Not that worldly honor constitutes a proper measure, but the AFSC was awarded a Nobel Prize for its work in the early 1950s and its volunteer program was copied by Kennedy (and called the Peace Corps).
It’s a long and problematic job to change the American penal system from punitive to rehabilitative. As all other things, it’s caught up in American conflict about classes and castes since WW2- a football, really. The political fronts are about punitive sentences- long drug sentences and capital punishment- and postincarceration punitive measures, principally disenfranchisement of the vote and lack of services. Fortunately the high water mark of the punitive incarceration doctrine has passed and all these things are being rolled back in small increments at various levels.
It doesn’t look like a whole lot of Christians or Christian ideals are involved in those things as initiators and leaders. If anything, it’s seemingly secular identified people and interests who most push the political process along. It’s sad to watch that in the American public arena “Christian” means reactionary, and seems to designate a group of people and interests that are more absorbed in a kind of group therapy in which the Protestant ideal of improvement of real things in the world has gone lost.



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Apologetic truth still goes

posted April 3, 2008 at 8:41 am


If “Christian” ideals are to be suggested, than know for a fact that ANY form of same-gender sex acts are immoral, per the New Testament witness. Sorry if that comes as a shock to the unlearned. Sodomy is “legal” now in America (also) and celebrated only by those of the liberal and progressive Humansist bent. It should come as no surprise that it is so accepted by so many heterosexual males (crimilas are usually immoral) in the prison system. Any male raping another male is by biological and physiological fact, doing homosexuality. No president is going to oppose that in fear of angering a certain rapidly hysterical group of political and social activists. Look at what happened to a certain Mayor in a certain Florida town for wanted to curb gay sex in public bathrooms. He too was called a bigot and homophobe. Those on the Left, have opened wide the doors to immorality and perversion being “tolerated,” and we are reaping the (their) whirlwind. When perversions are just another civil right, those that do not respect the civil rights of others do what comes natural to them.



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Doug

posted April 3, 2008 at 3:16 pm


“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16.



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Jillian

posted April 3, 2008 at 5:03 pm


If “Christian” ideals are to be suggested, than know for a fact that ANY form of same-gender sex acts are immoral, per the New Testament witness.
That seems more wishful thinking than proper exegesis, Donny. And just how do you reconcile it with the Law of Love?



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Walt

posted April 6, 2008 at 12:51 pm


Apologetic, know for a fact that ANY form of non-consensual sex or rape is immoral. Don’t confuse the issue with your bigoted ranting that irrelevant to David’s post.



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Thinker

posted April 6, 2008 at 8:05 pm


The damage done to our common humanity by our current justice system cannot even be glimpsed by most of us. We are becoming numb to the suffering of some – the most unattractive of people – those imprisoned across the country. We have the highest percentage of people in prison of any country. We have great evidence that the prosecutorial energy across the country has been perverted toward a sense of collective vengeance rather than the need for collective reformation. Send a boy to prison – and he comes out a man without hope, often brutalized (and therefore he becomes brutal), and hopelessness breeds violence. Any sense of “closure” , or “justice for the victim” is short lived. We are being destroyed as a people by a system that cannot reform anyone.
We must protect ourselves from violence of all sorts and prisons should be part of that protective shield, but to pretend that if we punish them enough – we will be safe – is – well – stupid.



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