Monday, April 20, 2015

Since it's prison, it's OK

While continuing my research for my Junior Theme, I found an article about rape and sexual assault in prisons. I'm not a professional on this issue, and I have never been to prison so I do not know what prison is really like, but I know it's not a place where I would like to live. I wasn't surprised, however, when I saw that around 80,000 male and female prisoners report sexual assault each year. This number isn't completely accurate, since many prisoners don't report sexual assault and harassment with a fear of being punished, yet it is still very high.

In 2003, a law was passed (the Prison Rape Elimination Act) to stop sexual assault in prisons. There were rules passed with the law, for example screening the prisoners to see if they were a possible threat before placing them in a cell, but only two states actually listened and followed the law. The ACLU estimated that around two million prisoners were sexually assaulted during the time it took to finalize the law (around 9 years), yet states have not changed their opinion on disobeying the law. The article states that "prisons protect rape culture to protect themselves", which is interesting to me. In fact, 50% of prison rape occurs between a prison guard and a prisoner. In my opinion, this is the most alarming fact in the article. Why do prisons employ men and women who hurt prisoners? I realize that prison guards main job is to keep the prisoners in line, but part of their job is protecting them as well. They are supposed to look out for the prisoners and make sure they aren't being further harmed while in prison, which is why I was shocked that such a high percent of rape was from them. 

I realize that people are arrested for a reason. I like to believe, as many Americans do, that prisoners deserve to be in jail. However, I don't think it is okay to let horrible things happen to them while in prison; they are already being punished for what they did. I don't think our society should be fine with prisoners being raped since they did something bad so they "deserve" it. I think that rape and sexual assault is something that should never be wished upon anyone, no matter the person. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Curse of Rikers Island

While exploring and researching mental illness in prison, my topic for the junior theme, I came across an article about a specific prison inmate. Michael Megginson is a prisoner at Rikers Island and was arrested for stealing a cell phone. In comparison to other prisoners and the crimes they committed, his didn't seem like a big deal. However, Megginson has become one of the most violent inmates at Rikers since his arrest. Why is that?

Megginson was diagnosed with mental illness from early on in his childhood. Although the article doesn't state his specific diagnosis, he is said to have had behavioral problems leading to violence for a long time. He came from a damaged family with many victims of mental illness themselves. He had been in and out of mental institutions, and while at Rikers he seemed to worsen, becoming very violent to himself and others. If he hadn't been so violent while in jail, he would've been released by now, according to his lawyer. He has been transferred to a state psychiatric prison hospital for the meantime, but no one can agree on where he should reside. Does he belong in prison again, or at a psychiatric hospital?

I think the argument over where to "keep" Megginson is interesting. Does he need to be kept anywhere? It seems as though his family and officials are arguing over a boat or a car, not a human being. I understand that he is violent and dangerous at times, but isn't there something to be said about healing with your family? I think everyone believes that being in prison worsened his condition, so I wonder why they're so eager to keep him away again, even if it is in a hospital.