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.

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