While the stereotype of prison rapist is a burly inmate, prison guards too often decide they have the right to exploit inmates. Just as it is a factor outside of prisons, the sense of entitlement some people have toward others' sexuality is a factor inside prisons.
The two-day hearing in a federal courtroom is the sixth held by the commission nationwide, but the first to focus on sexual abuse of immigrants held in federal detention facilities.
The panel, led by a federal judge and made up of business leaders, academics and human rights workers, was formed by Congress in 2003 to find ways of deterring prison rape - a crime that has claimed an estimated 1 million victims in 20 years, according to the commission. Unaware of their rights, unable to speak English and afraid that speaking out could hurt their chance at freedom, immigrant detainees are one of the populations most vulnerable to abuse by guards, immigrant advocates testified.
If this sense of entitlement is big enough the rapist or sexual abuser may feel wrongly accused if caught and punished. This issue needs to be addressed for the sake of the victims and for the sake of all those who work at prisons and jails who behave ethically.
If we hope to teach inmates to respect other people's rights and property when they are released from prison, we need to ensure that the examples they are given in prison are positive ones. If instead the lesson they learn is: do whatever you can get away with that will have an impact far beyond the prison walls.
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