A reader writes:
Unfortunately, in the mid 90s, I spent just over four years (52 months) in prison. During my incarceration I spent time at San Quentin, Susanville, DVI, Solano, Tehachapi, and Jamestown. I did at least six months in each institution and also had the pleasure of spending weeks inside the SHU (Secured Housing Unit) at five of the institutions.
While popular culture is fascinated, dare I say oddly obsessed, with prison sex - it's usually the first question I get from men - I can confidently say that sex abuse in prison is definitely overhyped. While there were instances of sex abuse in some of the prisons I visited, they were few and far between.
I would point to a few main reasons for the decline of sexual abuse. First, prison culture has evolved from the olden days when only hardened criminals were sent to prison, to the present day when petty criminals are routinely incarcerated. Second, the introduction and expansion of conjugal visits has also provided incentive to stay out of trouble and a sexual outlet.
Third, AIDS. Most inmates are terrified to contract HIV. For inmates who are not scared of the virus, there is typically a plentiful selection of homosexuals who are usually more than willing to accommodate the needs of inmates. I would hazard to guess that the homosexual community experiences sexual abuse on a much greater scale.
I firmly believe that the sex abuse in prison is not a significant enough problem to warrant any action from the federal government. There are many more serious problems in correctional facilities that warrant congressional action.
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