A reader writes:
A while ago you linked to a devastating NYRB article on prison rape. Your recent posts about the horrifying reports of sexual abuse in the church have gotten me thinking about that article again. I know it's ridiculous to compare horrors, but it seems to me that the church abuse gets far more press than does the prison abuse, and that this might be another example of how prisoners are forgotten in our society. Their abuse implicitly condoned, because most of them are criminals, and therefore it seems to the public that they deserve to suffer and that their rape and abuse cannot be helped. I think that we might find it more outrageous for a member of a religious order to abuse a free child than for a corrections officer to abuse a juvenile offender; but why should this be so?
Alex Eichler highlights the most salient aspect of the authors' work:
In a January 7 blog post ... Kaiser and Stannow focus on the sexual abuse of minors, and make the scope of the problem clear.
Some 3,220 juveniles, or 12.1 percent of those in custody, reported being sexually abused in prison in the past year, but in all likelihood this number "represents only a small fraction" of the abuses taking place. "What sort of kids get locked up in the first place?" the authors ask. "Only 34 percent of those in juvenile detention are there for violent crimes." Meanwhile, a number of minors are simply trapped in a system that doesn't care about them.
More than 20 percent of those in juvenile detention were confined for technical offenses such as violating probation, or for "status offenses" like disobeying parental orders, missing curfews, truancy, or running away--often from violence and abuse at home. Many suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, and learning disabilities.