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.”