Friday, December 21, 2007

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger... considering the early release of 22,000 inmates from the state's prisons to save hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to ease California's looming budget crunch.

Read more here...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Male rape in Arkansas penitentiary

Bryson (formally Kendell) Spruce, a forty-four year old living in Michigan, was raped twenty-seven times in a nine-month period during his period of incarceration in 1991 at an Arkansas prison. Originally, he had entered prison on a charge of forgery. Initially being raped at knife-point, the attacks continued to happen despite Bryson's repeated attempts to draw attention to the incidents. According to him, he was moved from cell to cell, and even in protective custody, he was attacked. The guards failed to respond properly, to provide him with substantial security or punish those committing the incidents. The only way that he could ensure his safety was to consciously disobey the rules in order to be placed in his own, separate cell.

Though the rapes were performed by inmates, it was the choice of the guards to ignore the events and continue as if nothing were happening. As Bryson stated in his testimony to Stop Prisoner Rape, "Even the administrators thought it was okay for a “faggot” to be raped. They said, ‘Oh, you must like it.’" There was no reason for him to have been forced to endure nine months of 'torture' because the guards refused to properly award him security. Eventually, Bryson contracted HIV. He now collects disability and lives in Michigan, close to his family.

All human beings are guaranteed the right to their dignity, as stated in the preamble of the ICCPR. Additionally, Article 7 of the ICCPR and Article 1 of the CAT, both of the which to the United States is a party, clearly outlaw any form of 'torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.' The Convention Against Torture also requires that those who have experienced such acts have a right to redress and compensation. To this day, Bryson Spruce has yet to receive any compensation for his suffering and only recently, in 2005, was his case given attention by Stop Prisoner Rape (.org). The Constitution of Arkansas (1874) also declares that no cruel or inhuman treatment may be imposed upon persons of detention and the same goes for the Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 declares sexual violence to be an act of torture.

Though Bryson's case occurred in 1991, the PREA can be applied to current issues regarding rape, which continues throughout the country. Activities like this must be ended. The guards must be trained properly and forced to follow the strict guidelines in place for the treatment of prisoners. There is no reason for events like this to occur in prisons as it is clearly illegal and a violation of human rights. Bryson himself declares that prisons are over-crowded and calls for a screening process that separates minor-offense prisoners from 'mass murderers.' The system of incarceration in America must be transformed from one of punishment to one of rehabilitation and reform.

For more information regarding Bryson Spruce's case, written and auditory testimonies can be found here: also provides several other testimonies of rape survivors that have contacted the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) and discussed their experiences and cases.
Other links that may serve helpful:

+ -- Farmer v. Brennan, Supreme Court case that declares sexual violence as torture.
+ -- "Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons."
+ -- US Department of Justice report regarding (reported) sexual violence in 2006.
+ -- Organization concerned with the issue of prison rape and male sexual victimization.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Rutgers University IRB defines a prisoner as the following:

"Individuals who are involuntarily confined or detained in a penal institution; other similar institutions (such as mental health institutions for criminals); sites for the detention of individuals pending arraignment, trial, or sentencing; or individuals on parole or probation"

QUESTION: Don't your rights get taken away when you go to prison?
ANSWER: Yes. Some of your rights are restricted when you go to prison like the right to liberty. However, this does not mean that all your rights are taken away. Most of your Constitutional rights are still protected. If you are a prisoner, you are also given specific rights that are found in the Prison Act of your country.

QUESTION: What rights does a prisoner have?
ANSWER: Under most Prison Acts, a prisoner has the right:
• To receive rations or meals;
• To receive clothing, bedding, soap and medicine;
• To exercise;
• To medical treatment;
• If a prisoner is female, to be kept separate from male prisoners;
• Not to be assaulted by prison guards unless he/she has attempted to escape, been riotous or violent, or has disobeyed an order;
• To make complaints to the Officer in Charge.

A prisoner may also have the right:
• To work reasonable hours;
• To be free from unreasonable searches at night time;
• To correspond with family and/or receive visitors; and
• To notify family members when sick.

BOTTOM LINE: Because prisoners rely on the state during their time of incarceration (ie, they cannot make a living, cook their own food, get their own health care, etc), the state has MORE of a responsibility to honor their rights.


Want to write a letter?

Maybe you've heard of a human rights abuse case that really fired you up. Writing a letter to a politician may seem old-fashioned or pointless, but it's actually a good way to get your voice out there, and get your case heard. Politicians, especially local ones, rely a great deal on letters from the public when it comes to decision making. They obviously want to make you happy so they will be reelected (although we're not trying to dismiss the possibility they may actually care, too!) or for other reasons. In any case, they will be made aware through your letter of a case they might not have known about before, and that is the first step in creating change.

Here's a website you can visit to look up any US governer, senator and representative.

Here are some tips to help you promote your cause. If you scroll down, there is a separate section on contacting representatives. There are many more tips too, like information on meeting your Congressperson.

Violence, Abuse and Neglect in the California Youth Authority

Real Prison Rape

A short film regarding prison rape, featuring author TJ Parsell.

Chris Cozzone's Prison Photography

You can see these, along with more of Chris Cozzone's prison photography, by following the link "Prison Zone" on the side of this page.

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