Saturday, August 17, 2002

These accounts are in no way unique. Most of the COs holding the keys at the nation’s 170 state prisons for women are still men (since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it has been deemed discriminatory to female guards for prison administrators to segregate their staff by gender: thus the cross-gender guarding). By profession COs are trained to physically and psychologically dominate prisoners. In a world where sex is often fused with motifs of domination, it is no wonder that the combination of male keepers and female charges translates into rape on a mass scale. And while intercourse behind bars is usually a forced, ugly affair, it can often appear “consensual” because of the tremendous power imbalance between women prisoners and their armed male keepers. The lack of overt violence in many such jailhouse liaisons merely reveals the extent of institutionalized violence that inscribes the details of everyday life in women’s prisons. In the ladies’ lockdown bare necessities such as cigarettes, library access, or adequate supplies of soap, become “perks” to be doled out by lecherous predators in uniform. Women who refuse guards’ advances, or dare to complain, face not only poverty and discomfort during confinement, but beatings and solitary confinement.

Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (192)

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