Bryan Caplan  

Prison Rape: Becker-Acton Model Confirmed

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Define Courage: The Jose Anton... Vargas and Understatement...
The latest U.S. Department of Justice National Inmate Survey confirms my earlier report that prison staff commit more prison rape than prisoners.  Lovisa Stannow of Just Detention International boils down the results in Reason:
The U.S. Department of Justice recently released its first-ever estimate of the number of inmates who are sexually abused in America each year. According to the department's data, which are based on nationwide surveys of prison and jail inmates as well as young people in juvenile detention centers, at least 216,600 inmates were victimized in 2008 alone. Contrary to popular belief, most of the perpetrators were not other prisoners but staff members--corrections officials whose job it is to keep inmates safe. On average, each victim was abused between three and five times over the course of the year. The vast majority were too fearful of reprisals to seek help or file a formal complaint.
As Becker might say, "Incentives matter."  Or in Acton's immortal words:
I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men... There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
HT: Jason Brennan


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Brandon Berg writes:

Sort of. This is actually not an apples-to-apples comparison. It's nonconsensual inmate-on-inmate sexual contact vs. staff sexual misconduct, which includes activity characterized by the inmates as consensual.

Looking strictly at nonconsensual activity, there was no statistically significant difference between staff and inmates overall. Looking specifically at nonconsensual groping (as opposed to rape), staff were significantly less likely to perpetrate. Staff may have been slightly more likely to commit full-on rape, but not at the 95% confidence level.

Brandon Berg writes:

On second thought, I misspoke. Everything I said was true with respect to whether a specific crime was more likely to have been perpetrated by a guard or a prisoner. But since prisoners significantly outnumber guards, that means that guards were quite a bit more likely to offend than prisoners.

Daublin writes:

I have to think it would help this sad situations if felons could vote....

Peter Lentz writes:

These results were based on surveys. The respondents are of a class from which one might expect a high level of dishonesty and a disaffection for prison staff. Could this affect the results?

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