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Joanne Mariner, No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons, Human Rights Watch, 2001, $25.00 (softcover), 378pp.

Cruel and unusual punishment in American prisons.
reviewed by Jared Taylor

(April 2002 AR)


There are probably more men than women raped in the United States every year-most of them in prison. Best estimates put the annual number of prison rapes at about 140,000, which is 50,000 more than the 90,000 or so rapes of women reported to police. Gang rape of the most brutal kind is common, and weaker prisoners often seek protection from a "daddy" who fights off other predators in exchange for total submission and sex on demand. There is an ugly racial dimension to prison rape: Blacks and Mexicans deliberately seek out white victims, and black-on-white rape is probably more common than any other kind. Prison rape is an appalling secret in a country that prides itself on human rights.

One reason there is so much prison rape is that Americans refuse even to think about it. The sheer brutality of it and the racial hatred that so often drives it are too gruesome to face. To its immense credit, a lefty organization called Human Rights Watch has done a serious prison-rape study and has published its findings in a book-length report called No Escape. Human Rights Watch ordinarily specializes in trendy causes: opposition to landmines, the death penalty, and alleged violence against homosexuals in American schools. In this case, it has taken on the most untrendy of subjects, and describes inmate rape-and hatred for whites-in unflinching detail. It solicited accounts of rape by advertising in Prison Legal News and Prison Life-magazines that have high circulation in prisons-and reaped a wealth of first-hand horror stories.

There is considerable variation from one prison system to another, and among different prisons within the same system, but the general picture that emerges is of a world of constant violence. As one prisoner explains in
No Escape:

"When a new inmate enters an open barracks prison it triggers a sort of competition among the convicts as to who will seduce and subjugate that new arrival. . . . Every new arrival is a potential victim. Unless the new arrival is strong, ugly, and efficient at violence, they are subject to get seduced, coerced, or raped . . . . Psychosocially, emotionally, and physically the most dangerous and traumatic place I can conceive of is the open-barracks prison when first viewed by a new inmate."

The only sure defense against rape is the willingness to fight, and even this may be no protection against gang assault. In many prisons a small, unaggressive white is sure to be raped, probably by blacks or Hispanics. As one prison guard explains, a young white has "almost zero" chance of escaping rape "unless he's willing to stick someone with a knife and fortunate enough to have one." Some of the tougher inmates may even fight each other for the chance to rape an effeminate young white.

Rape is so common it has its own terminology. To rape a heterosexual man and turn him into a sexual plaything is to "turn him out," and the victim is known as a "turnout" or "punk." If a turnout seeks the protection of another inmate to avoid an endless series of rapes by other prisoners, he is "riding with" his protector. He becomes essentially the property of his protector and is known as his "bitch" or "ho" or "boy."

One inmate uses the lingo to explain the importance of violence: "If you're knocked down and don't get up you're a 'ho'; you have to ride." An essential quality in prison is "heart," or a man's willingness to keep fighting long after he is clearly beaten. As inmates explained to Human Rights Watch, a real man "would die before giving up his anal virginity." A man who will not fight is a "punk" who deserves humiliation and exploitation.

The racial dynamic in prisons puts whites at a tremendous disadvantage. First, whites are often outnumbered by both blacks and Hispanics. But far more important, just as they show no racial solidarity in "the free world," whites in prison do not band together to protect each other from predators. As
No Escape reports, Hispanics sometimes rape Hispanics, and blacks sometimes rape blacks, but neither group permits anyone of another race to rape its own people. If a black tried to "turn out" a Mexican, the Mexicans would riot and try to kill him. Blacks also defend each other from white or Hispanic rapists. It is only whites-unless they are known members of white racialist gangs who do stick together-who are on their own and can be raped with impunity. It would be hard to think of a more cruel consequence of stripping whites of racial consciousness.

Some whites must choose between being the sex slave of one man or facing repeated assault. The stories they told
No Escape read like nightmares:

"I had no choice but to submit to being Inmate B's prison wife. Out of fear for my life, I submitted to sucking his dick, being fucked in my ass, and performing other duties as a woman, such as making his bed. In all reality, I was his slave . . . . I determined I'd be better off to willingly have sex with one person, than I would be to face violence and rape by multiple people. The most tragic part to this is that the person I chose to 'be with' has AIDS."

A Michigan inmate writes:
"[Another prisoner] claimed me as his property and I didn't dispute it. I became obedient, telling myself at least I was surviving . . . . He publicly humiliated and degraded me, making sure all the inmates and guards knew that I was a queen and his property. Within a week he was pimping me out to other inmates at $3.00 a man. This state of existence continued for two months until he sold me for $25.00 to another black male who purchased me to be his wife."

A different inmate describes how he became a black man's "ho."

"You will clean the house, he said, have my clothes clean, and when I'm ready to get my 'freak' [sex] no arguments or there will be a punishment! I will, he said, let my homeboys have you or I'll just sale you off. Do we have an understanding? With fear, misery, and confusion inside me . . . I said yes."
Once a man "owns" another-and it is almost always a black "owning" a white-he is property in every sense. He can be rented out, sold or auctioned, told how to dress and talk, and given a woman's name. That this can happen is essentially unknown outside the prison world. "It would amaze you (as it did me) to see human beings bought & sold like shoes," writes a Texan prisoner. "You can buy a kid for 20 or 30 dollars on most wings!!" writes another. "They sell them like cattle."

"Riding" with a "daddy" may be the only way to avoid the degradation of one Virginia inmate who described what happened when six blacks entered his cell and demanded sex:

"I said to myself, 'Oh no! I'm in trouble!' I looked toward the door for an escape route finding it blocked. It was at this time that the floor officer came by on the bottom tier (I was on the top tier), doing or supposedly doing, his rounds. He noticed the inmates in my cell and asked if everything was all right. Too terrified to answer, I just nodded. [The officer] never came to the top tier during his round. I was then dragged back to my bed. . . . [All of them, plus one more] took turns anally and orally raping me at the same time. All of them repeatedly did this. Somewhere in the middle of this, inmate F entered and said "suck this dick you white bitch.". . . . [One said,] 'If you snitch on us, we'll kill you!!' At that time, I really believed them, and I still think this today."

As one Indiana prisoner explains, repeated rape takes a staggering physical and psychological toll:
"I've been sentenced for a D.U.I. offense. My 3rd one. I'm a tall white male, who unfortunately has a small amount of feminine characteristics. And very shy. These characteristics have got me raped so many times I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to 5 black men at a time. . . . I probably have AIDS now. I have great difficulty raising food to my mouth from shaking after nightmares or thinking so hard on all this. . . . I've laid down without a physical fight to be sodomized. To prevent so much damage in struggles, ripping and tearing. Though in not fighting, it caused my heart and spirit to be raped as well. Something I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for."

Needless to say, men will do just about anything to avoid this kind of horror. Suicide is the leading cause of death in prisons, and is the only way out for some rape victims. Some break prison rules so they will be locked up in punitive custody. One prisoner even had his family deposit money into bank accounts owned by the black Crips gang in the hope of buying protection. Of course, he was raped anyway.

No Escape recognizes reluctantly that blacks and Hispanics often rape whites out of pure hatred, and relish the chance to degrade whites. As one inmate explains, "Gangs of black and Spanish inmates are very angry at free-world white people for a variety of reasons, and this results in an attitude of vengeance towards white people in prisons." Blacks reportedly like to say "Y'all may run it out there, but this is our world!" or "Ain't no fun when the rabbit's got the gun, is it?"

One white explains that "those two races [blacks and Hispanics] have a lot of people in here and take advantage of us by making the small and weak ones ride or turn them out, and the big ones have to fight all the time."

Human Rights Watch appears surprised to discover the obvious:

"Certain prison systems seem to have almost no positive social interaction-not even the most trivial-between members of different races."

"Prisoners' social relationships are largely determined by race; their gang affiliation, if they have one, is racially defined; and whatever racist beliefs they may have held prior to their imprisonment are likely to be significantly strengthened over the course of their stay in prison."

Despite what the book tells us about what happens to so many whites,
No Escape cannot resist conventional pieties:

"Many white prisoners told Human Rights Watch that they were uncomfortable with blacks and would prefer to live in a racially segregated environment. A few espoused virulently racist views. More so than African American prisoners, many whites asserted that the prison experience had made them racist-or, as they tended to put it, 'racially aware.' "

It is hardly astonishing that white prisoners should be "uncomfortable" around blacks. Nor is it surprising that they want to get away from them, whereas blacks are less inclined to be separated from people they can rape, buy and sell, pimp out, and humiliate with impunity. It is true that prison doesn't teach blacks and Hispanics to hate whites; they hate whites long before they get to prison. Needless to say, this book makes no attempt to understand this hatred, implying that it is normal for victims of a "racist" society. Nor is any black or Hispanic reported to express "virulently racist views," not even when he tells a white victim, "suck this dick, you white bitch."

The book is full of recommendations-some good-but the one about race relations is an almost perfect distillation of liberal foolishness:

"Given the element of racial bias in many instances of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, steps should be taken to address racial tensions in the inmate population. DOC [Department of Corrections] staff should receive racial sensitivity training. Racial slurs and other forms of harassment-whether from inmates or staff-should not be tolerated."

As anyone not blinded by orthodoxy knows, the only thing that will "address racial tensions in the inmate population" is segregation. Blacks and Hispanics hate whites because they cannot build the societies and institutions whites can, and because everyone-including whites-tells them whites are to blame for their failures. They also hate whites because whites are weak and refuse to defend each other. "Sensitivity training" for prison guards would affect this as much as it would affect the law of gravity.

Even some of the inmates don't understand what is happening. "I hate to say this," [emphasis added] says one, "but if you weren't racist when you came to prison more than likely you will be when you leave." Despite what he has seen and suffered, this man still thinks he has to apologize for not wanting to be around blacks and Hispanics.

Why is prison rape so well hidden, and why haven't prisoners brought huge damages suits against the prisons that permit it? First, the guards appear to be uniformly oblivious to rape.
No Escape finds that "raped inmates frequently say that they are treated scornfully by guards who do not bother to hide the fact that they despise prisoners who are so 'weak' as to be victimized." The report quotes one warden who testified at a trial that "it was the prisoners' own responsibility to fight off sexual abuse-that prisoners had to let the others 'understand that [they]'re not going to put up with that.' "

No Escape does not go into this, but prison guards are likely to be a pretty low breed of cattle themselves. Many are likely to be black, and some may be just as happy as the rapists to see whites humiliated. Many victims therefore do not report rapes. Some are afraid that if they "snitch" their tormentors will kill them. Others are so ashamed of what has happened they tell no one.

There are times when talking might do some good. John King became famous for dragging a black man to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998. He became a byword for white "racism," but with some luck and savvy he could have turned the tables and made the case one of black brutality. Before he killed James Byrd, he had just spent 21 months for burglary in one of Texas' toughest prisons, the Beto Unit. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed only 140 pounds when he was sentenced, and reportedly had no pronounced racial views. He emerged covered with white-power tattoos. His lawyer said rape by blacks had deeply affected Mr. King, but that he rarely talked about it.

Whites who kill blacks get no mercy, and Mr. King could not have avoided a death sentence no matter how often he was gang-buggered, but a full account of his horrors would have won considerable public sympathy and attracted badly-needed attention to the tortures white prisoners often face. For a country that is ever on the hunt for "root causes" of black deviance, it would have been edifying to know just what it was that made John King hate blacks. Needless to say, the press never let on, and his crime has gone down as yet another example of the unfathomable evil of whites.

Rape is, of course, a crime, whether committed in prison or the "free world." However, prosecutors do not think of criminals as part of their constituency, and get little credit in the community for charging perpetrators who are already in jail. Also, they prefer to stay on good terms with prison authorities and let them take care of discipline problems. As this report points out, most violence goes unpunished in prisons, and guards often ignore rape or simply lock the victim in protective custody. Prisoners face actual criminal charges in only extreme cases: murder or assault on a guard.

Human Rights Watch has been unable to find a single case in which a prisoner has been charged with rape, though it would be a strong deterrent if rapists got half a dozen more years tacked onto their sentences. There have been a few successful civil suits against prison systems, but
No Escape explains why they are hard to win:

"Under the 'deliberate indifference' standard that is applicable to legal challenges to prison officials' failure to protect prisoners from inter-prisoner abuses such as rape, the prisoner must prove to the court that the defendants had actual knowledge of a substantial risk to him, and that they disregarded that risk. As the courts have emphasized, it is not enough for the prisoner to prove that 'the risk was obvious and a reasonable prison official would have noticed it.' Instead, if a prison official lacked knowledge of the risk-no matter how obvious it was to anyone else-he cannot be held liable. In other words, rather than trying to ascertain the true dimensions of the problem of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, prison officials have good reason to want to remain unaware of it."

The United States is always lecturing other countries about human rights, yet we do virtually nothing about a scandalous practice we would denounce in the most self-righteous tones were it to come to light in China or Iraq. It is difficult not to conclude that the racial aspect of these horrors has a lot to do with our determination to ignore them. If whites were routinely gang-buggering and enslaving blacks, there would be a high-powered campaign to stop them, with movie stars queuing up to befriend the victims, and senators preening themselves on their virtuous concern. Because whites are the victims, any investigation would run head-on into facts too awful for public consumption: that blacks and Hispanics are the "racists," and that forced integration is even more of a disaster behind bars than in the free world.

At the same time, it is a testimony to the power of liberal propaganda that it has driven white racial solidarity out of the minds even of convicted felons. One would have expected an elemental tribalism among the lower orders, but even here only a few "white supremacists" are willing to fight for each other.

To those who can see beyond liberal clichés about race, the dynamics of prison rape are perfectly understandable. To those, like the author of this report, who cannot or will not understand what race really means, this book is an incomprehensible horror. Our prisons reflect our society, and as long as whites are official scapegoats and are forbidden to act in their own interests, and as long as we insist on forcing on prisoners a brutal form of integration no one would choose for himself, white prisoners will be pimped, beaten, gang raped, and infected with AIDS. America refuses to face this problem because it refuses to face itself.

The full text of the Human Rights Watch report can be read at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison.