Human Rights Prison Prison Policy

The Rape of American Prisoners


The New York Review of Books has a remarkable two part series
on rape in American correctional facilities. The stories appear in the March 11 issue and the March 25 issue, and are written by David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow.

The first part concerns itself with the prevalence of rape in juvenile facilities, jails and prisons. It starts with harrowing accounts of the abuse scandal at the Texas Youth Commission:

Adults who want to have sex with children sometimes look for jobs that will make it easy. They want authority over kids, but no very onerous supervision; they also want positions that will make them seem more trustworthy than their potential accusers. Such considerations have infamously led quite a few pedophiles to sully the priesthood over the years, but the priesthood isn’t for everyone. For some people, moral authority comes less naturally than blunter, more violent kinds.

Ray Brookins worked for the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the state’s juvenile detention agency. In October 2003, he was hired as head of security at the West Texas State School in Pyote. Like most TYC facilities, it’s a remote place. The land is flat to the horizon, scattered with slowly bobbing oil derricks, and always windy. It’s a long way from the families of most kids confined there, who tend to be urban and poor; a long way from any social services, or even the police. It must have seemed perfect to Brookins—and also to John Paul Hernandez, who was hired as the school’s principal around the same time. Almost immediately, Brookins started pulling students out of their dorms at night, long after curfew, and bringing them to the administration building. When asked why, he said it was for cleaning.[1]

In fact, according to official charges, for sixteen months Brookins and Hernandez molested the children in their care: in offices and conference rooms, in dorms and darkened broom closets and, at night, out in the desert. The boys tried to tell members of the staff they trusted; they also tried, both by letter and through the school’s grievance system, to tell TYC officials in Austin. They did so knowing that they might be retaliated against physically, and worse, knowing that if Brookins caught them complaining he could and would extend their confinement,[2] and keep on abusing them.[3] They did so because they were desperate. But they were ignored by the authorities who should have intervened: both those running the school and those running the Texas Youth Commission.[4] Nor did other officials of the TYC who were informed by school staff about molestation take action……

Part two talks about the solution to the problem that the authors call “one of this country’s most widespread human rights problems, and arguably its most neglected.”

They discuss the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission’s report, which “analyzes the dynamics and consequences of prisoner rape, shows how sexual abuse can be and in many cases already is being prevented in detention facilities across the country, and proposes standards for its prevention, detection, and response.”

In any case, read the stories here and here. This is important work.

PS: Why is it, by the way, that the New York Review of Books has written more thoughtfully and more frequently in the last year or two about the deeper issues surrounding prison reform, than, say, The Los Angeles Times has?


  • That’s so sad and disgusting. You cannot make laws that would protect kids against people like that. As long as they have a clean record, they can always apply for those positions. So horrible.

  • “You cannot make laws that would protect kids against people like that. As long as they have a clean record, they can always apply for those positions.”


    That is true, but once you convict these perverts you can lock them into a cell with Big Bubba who loves the new inmates.

  • Saturday, March 27, 2010
    The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 30% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -13

    Virtually unchanged by the passage of healthcare.

  • Congressional Approval Ratings

    CBS Approve Dissaprove
    14 76

    FOX 18 76

    NBC/Wall Street Journal
    17 77

    16 80

    22 76

    ABC/Washington Post
    26 71 3 -45

    FOX/Opinion Dynamics RV
    2/2-3/10 22 69 8 -47

    2/1-3/10 18 78 4 -60

    1/28-31/10 21 74 * -53

    NPR LV 1/20-21, 23/10 28 67 5 -39

    1/14-17/10 23 63 14 -40

    1/12-17/10 32 66 * -34

    NBC/Wall Street Journal
    1/10-14/10 21 67 12 -46

    FOX/Opinion Dynamics RV
    1/12-13/10 27 63 10 -36

    CNN/Opinion Research
    1/8-10/10 27 72 1 -45

    1/8-10/10 24 71 5 -47

  • President Obama’s job approval polling is 5 points higher than Reagan’s was at this point in his Presidency and his disapproval polliing is 4 points lower.

  • Oh, bull. You guys can pull all sorts of statistics out of your rear ends to prove something that is totally meaningless. I knew Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan.

    White men shun Democrats

    Millions of white men who voted for Barack Obama are walking away from the Democratic Party, and it appears increasingly likely that they’ll take the midterms elections in November with them. Their departure could well lead to a GOP landslide on a scale not seen since 1994.

    …only 38 percent of white men approve of the President, which means that millions of white men who voted for Obama have now lost faith in him. …Obama’s brand of liberalism is exactly the sort likely to drive such voters away.

    …In 1994, liberals tried to explain their thinning ranks by casting aspersions on the white men who were fleeing, and the media took up the cry. The term “angry white male” or “angry white men” was mentioned 37 times in English-language news media contained in the Nexis database between 1980 and the 1994 election. In the following year, the phrases appear 2,306 times.

    Tarnishing their opponents as merely “angry” was poor politics for the Democrats. …

    Democrats are too stupid and arrogant to learn from history.

  • Here’s one of those clowns – sad, really:

    When Tom Grimes lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago, he called his congressman, a Democrat, for help getting government health care.

    Then he found a new full-time occupation: Tea Party activist.

    In the last year, he has organized a local group and a statewide coalition, and even started a “bus czar” Web site to marshal protesters to Washington on short notice. This month, he mobilized 200 other Tea Party activists to the local office of the same congressman to protest what he sees as the government’s takeover of health care.

    Mr. Grimes is one of many Tea Party members jolted into action by economic distress. At rallies, gatherings and training sessions in recent months, activists often tell a similar story in interviews: they had lost their jobs, or perhaps watched their homes plummet in value, and they found common cause in the Tea Party’s fight for lower taxes and smaller government…

    Mr. Grimes, who receives Social Security, has filled the back seat of his Mercury Grand Marquis with the literature of the movement, including Glenn Beck’s “Arguing With Idiots” and Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law,” which denounces public benefits as “false philanthropy.”

    “If you quit giving people that stuff, they would figure out how to do it on their own,” Mr. Grimes said.

    (New York Times)

    Too stupid. etc. etc.

  • “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.

    – The wisdom of right-wing icon Dick Cheney.

  • “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and he traded arms to Iran.

    “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and he wanted to share missile defense technology with the Soviets.

    “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and he cut-and-ran from Beirut after a terrorist attack.

    “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and he gave US military intelligence to Saddam Hussein to assist his war crimes.

    “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and he began the deregulation of financial institutions that almost sank the economy.

    “I knew Ronald Reagan”…and he wasn’t tough AND smart like Obama.

  • OK, like, Sure Fire, like, here’s the thing, ok? It’s like, Don doesn’t like get mad at others for like, bringing up race, you know? But woody, is like, you know, just the type of white guy, like me, like know, who would get mad at a minority for bringing race into a discussion or playing the race card, ok? It’s cool dude. Toooootally cool.

    BTW, I’m watching all of Gran Torino for the first time right now. The first time I tried to watch it I couldn’t get through the first hour because it’s so fucking stupid. It still is, but I have to say there is one redeeming Clint moment in this movie. When the girl walks up to his porch and asks him what he’s up to, and he just tilts his beer can. Fuckin’ Clint. From one white male to another.

  • Anybody notice that in the latest poll congressional ratings were lower in the CBS, NBC/WSJ and Gallup polls than in the FOX News poll?
    Very interesting to say the least.

  • Gran Torino ranks right up there with Buzz Aldrin on Dancing With The Stars. It seems like fame, fortune, success in your field is a drug not easily relinquished, rather it leaves the user a shadow of himself/ buffoonish. Take a lesson.

  • Gran Torino was totally contrived, as movies most often are, but I enjoyed it solely because it was Clint and he was obviously bringing Dirty Harry and other baggage along with him. It’s a ridiculous premise and narrative that would have simply seemed inept with another actor, but there ARE a few great moments and character insights.

  • GJ – I have to say that Clint is very far from Dancing With the Stars desperation. He’s done some of his best work in his 70s. It wouldn’t surprise me if he comes out with something at the level of Mystic River in his 80s. Still one among the finest – and certainly the most economical – of American directors with no sign of quitting. Scorcese’s the one who is starting to worry me, having sat through Shelter Island recently.

  • I’m surprised that WTF and Gava Joe aren’t a little more critical of Clint Eastwood for trying to make a movie about the hood. Clint is a white boy, from Carmel, Ca. What business is it of his what goes on in the ghetto? That’s like RobThomas trying to talk about Los Angeles gangs. Yet, WTF and GJ seem to be cool with Clint making a long winded diatribe/feature film on inner city gangs and race relations. Hmmm. Maybe their real problem with RobThomas is a difference in political ideology? We report, you decide.

  • I adore Eastwood and I loathed the script of Gran Torino. I found the dialogue grindingly bad and obvious in the extreme. And although the film purported to be a look at our new multicultural world—save for some of the Humong family moments, which seemed actually decently-researched—it aggressively, albeit unwittingly, reinforced the worst kind of cultural stereotypes. AND it was preposterously contrived in its treatment of street gangs, which the writer appeared to have researched mostly by watching bad rap videos.

    I went to see it because I never get tired of watching Clint. And he was, indeed, really fun to watch, despite the movies appalling flaws.

    Love that clip of Unforgiven, WTF. One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

    I like Mystic River lots as well. How can one not.

  • I thought the Hmong family stuff was the most interesting thing in the film, aside from a couple of Clint’s inflections – those folks have been pretty invisible in film and TV.

  • Clint Eastwood grew up in Piedmont, the nicest part of Oakland, and this was when Oakland was a much wealthier area anyway. Clint Eastwood was born in 1930, and Oakland would not even begin to show signs of serious poverty until after the war, as the war made up for much of Oakland’s economy. Military manufacturing, etc. It wasn’t until the late 50s when Oakland truly became known for poverty and racial disharmony. By this time, Clint was shooting people with toy guns on Rawhide. And, he presently lives in Carmel. The closest thing Carmel has to a street gang is the police.

    As far as comparing my childhood experiences with racial and economic diversity with that of Clint Eastwood? I’d never do any such thing, because his experience doesn’t come close to mine. I’ve got more experience with poverty, minorities, and gangs in any given week of my childhood than Clint Eastwood has in his entire make believe life.

  • Actors carried Mystic River. Penn, Hutton, Fishburn, Bacon…the storyline was a gimmick, classic whodunnit. Nothing original there. Using little tricks to make the audience believe a different character did it at different parts of the movie. Kind of annoying. Mystic was all acting.

  • “I’ve got more experience with poverty, minorities, and gangs in any given week of my childhood than Clint Eastwood has in his entire make believe life.”


    Whining about white america, apologizing and excusing every latino gang member for their own failures in life, does NOT make one a gang expert.

    Sr. gang expert,
    Why do whites join gangs?
    Are white rednecks the only ignorant fools in the U.S.?

  • RT – I wasn’t trying to make a case that Clint grew up around the ghetto, just claiming him from Carmel. Piedmont would definitely qualify as the nicest “part” of Oakland, although not as much when Clint was a kid. Actually it’s not “Oakland” but a seperate municipality. But Clint graduated from Oakland Tech and did partake of the Oakland milieu as a young man, which in the ’40s when he was coming of age was quite different than Carmel and quite diverse. He was drafted after high scnool, went to community college and worked at odd jobs. Not exactly a product of the “elite.” Personally, I think he’s one of the most interesting, complicated figures in the history of Hollywood. He still practices an unpretentious “blue collar” style of filmmaking, like his mentor Don Siegal.

  • Lawrence, I assume this is sarcasm.

    One of the brilliant themes of Unforgiven is that it is a comment on the sins, shall we say, of Clint’s earlier characters, and the lies inherent in those stories and others like them. Then, in the end, he shows us our complicity in it all, when he finally shoots all the bad guys in one orgiastic moment—and the audience knows, by then, it shouldn’t like the scene, but cheers anyway.

  • Dr. Phil, I never said I was a gang expert. But Clint Eastwood must have thought he was one when he made that joke of a movie.

  • I never said Clint was part of the elite, Reg. Just said he has little to no experience interacting with people of different races, people from poverty, or with street gangs. There is no doubt in my mind I have more experience with all 3 than he does. No doubt. And I’m willing to debate any of these trolls on it, right down to every single word. But they’re just smart enough to know that I’m right, so they don’t want to embarrass themselves. That explains the cowardly sarcasm behind multiple pseudonyms.

    Reg, Clint Eastwood’s perception of urban issues is entirely flawed. It’s out of his realm. And when you look at the movies he’s made without good actors like Hillary Swank, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, etc., it’s obvious he’s merely a good action movie lead actor, and nothing more.

  • Either Lawrence isn’t old enough to understand the difference between movies and reality, or he’s a rapist desperately searching for any kind of commendation of his violent, perverted instincts.

  • There is also no doubt in my mind I am smarter than anybody else on this blog, just because I am living in my mother’s basement doesn’t mean I ain’t a genius. I know more about the Nazi LAPD and the evil Republicans who have destroyed our country than all of Hollywood !!!!!!!!!

    Nobody will de-bait me, about the Nazi LAPD, the evil Republicans, or how the mexican drug cartels are more compassionate than the Republicans. There is no doubt in my mind – I am a genius !!!!

  • Does Clint Eastwood know about the minutemen? Does he know they are a terrorist organization who hunt and kill latinos? The latinos are being exterminated by the minutemen, why isnt’t the FBI investigating and arresting the minutemen? There is no larger threat to a latino than the minutemen !!!!!!!!!

  • RT – bad directors can make bad movies with terrific actors. Clint has made some very good movies with very good actors. It’s a team effort and if the coach sucks, it’s likely to fail. Also, wasn’t making a case that Clint was an expert on gangs, urban problems or criminal justice, just reclaiming him from Carmel. He’s at least a bit more interesting than that.

  • Just came back from No. Cal., I never liked San Jose but now I hate it more. During this thread which is loaded with some actual interesting comments Robbie has to show there isn’t a discussion people can have where he can’t find a wayt to slam cops.

    “The closest thing Carmel has to a street gang is the police”.

    I don’t know ho the cop was that beat your ass Robbie but if you tell me I’ll treat him to a nice diner.

    You’re the biggest tard on the whole net, congratulations.

    My favorite Eastwoods, “Unforgiven” and “Dirty Harry”, classics.

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