End of the semester rush and tons about prisons

I’ve been so busy with the end of the semester it’s been hard to keep up with the flood of recent talk on my favorite topic.
First, Jason Briggeman at Productivity Shock, put up some revealing interpretations of prison rape statistics. I think his estimates are accurate, and I commented on his blog that were it not for the conditions of incarceration a lot of these rapes logistically couldn’t take place.
Some additional thoughts: Rape and sex in prison is no new thing, it’s commonly reported by inmate accounts and ethnography work on the subject. But its pervasiveness is presented differently from the ethnographic research. One thing that’s overlooked in these statistics is the usage of sex as payment or the use of rape as enforcement in prison. There is very little work exposing how order is maintained amongst the inmate population. These statistics don’t show what a rape victim may or may not have done to induce violent aggression by other prisoners? Could greater rates of inmate conflict currently be avoided by the threat of rape?
Secondly, Marginal Revolution reports a new study on the training of prisoners to become better criminals. This was a hot topic around the eighties and nineties, especially after Reagan era drug policy the tough on crime tradition. But it has dropped off a bit since violent crime rates are generally down. The general wisdom on the subject was that prisons were filled with violent veteran criminals, then enforcement started sending non-violent drug users to jail when they came out they were prepared and trained to commit more violent types of crimes. This new study seems important because it focuses on crime specifically after release, whereas many studies in the past lumped crime committed in prison as recidivism.
Finally, the US has caught some flack in recent press (here, and here) for being the developed nation with the highest prison population as reported by the new DOJ statistics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *