Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Soap Dropping and Other Tasteless Jokes

Ever read the comments after a news story about rape or child abuse?

Without fail, you'll see some variation of the common joke about the dangers of dropping the soap in prison. You'll typically find quite a few people cheering the fact that the convicted suspect will now face years of sexual abuse. You might even find some people going into graphic detail about what they'd like to do the person if they were in jail.

And you'll rarely find anybody objecting.

Well, hopefully this story will make you reconsider your reluctance to not objecting? Those of you who click the link will find a Washington Post editorial reaming out the Justice Department for dragging its feet on addressing prison rape involving adults and rape involving juveniles. The editorial also provides links to reports about exactly what's happening in our prisons.

I admit that I used to make the jokes about prison rape. Hell, I'm still not totally immune to hoping that someone is abused in prison as payback for the heinous nature of their offenses. However, in recent years I've examined my attitude on prison rape and I realized I was dead wrong. There is nothing funny about people being sexually abused while in prison and there is no true justice in vigilante justice. No matter how heinous a person's crime, they deserve to be afforded all the rights that every other prisoner is supposed to be afforded. We as a nation will not be judged by how we treat our model inmates, but by how we treat those inmates who are truly scum.

It reminds me of this blog I wrote a while back where I ranted about the way people dehumanize others when they become angry at them. In that blog I talked about how it's a slippery slope when we try to remove someone's humanity. Before long, we'll be justifying anything if we can just convince ourselves that the person being brutalized isn't really human.

Personally, I feel like we as a society dehumanize anyone who enters our prisons. We are willing to turn a blind eye to abuse in prison because we've already decided that those people aren't really part of the human race while they're locked up. As long as they're inmates, they might as well be animals in a zoo. We know their lives probably suck, but we don't think it's our jobs to fix it.

That's why so many of us are so comfortable joking about their rape. In no other situation but prison is rape considered a positive thing, or a deserved reward. None of us would be so cavalier about the rape of non-inmates regardless of how evil or horrible they are as humans. Yet, once somebody is officially convicted of a crime, their rape becomes so unimportant that even if they are a child the Justice Department has to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether they want to correct the problem! And that's for children, they aren't even talking about adults.

That's unacceptable. It's ridiculous, it's callous and it sickens me. It should sicken you too.



Darth Whitey said...

Not to mention that precisely the ones people hope are abused are in fact the ones raping the weaker inmates in there. This has been a big issue for me for a long time, glad to see it getting some play.

macon d said...

This was a great post, thank you for addressing this issue. I hate these kinds of jokes too, and always call them out as the kind of ultraviolent, homophobic crap they are.

And whatever happened to "rehabilitation"? How did it turn so much into pure "punishment" in our prisons?

Big Man said...


I got into with my pops last night about that very issue with prisons. He's one of those folks who thinks they should lock the "thugs" up and throwaway the key. He doesn't care what happens to them. It's a damn shame how people don't see how the horrible conditions in prison only make things worse for them, not better.

Shady_Grady said...

I think that part of the reason that rehabilitation became somewhat passe was because crime was rising from the sixties thru the eighties. So politically it was much easier to argue for harsher treatments than rehabilitation-which didn't seem to be working. Also as conditions worsened in communities, people had less sympathy for anything that smacked of "coddling criminals" whether it was accurate or not.

It's complicated. Most people in prison will get out one day so society shouldn't brutalize these people to the point that they can't re-enter normal society. On the other hand, it is PRISON. It's not supposed to be a pleasant experience.

Big Man said...

I agree that it shouldn't be pleasant, but it seems some people have taken unpleasant to mean that nothing good at all should come of prison.
I think having your freedome restricted and being denied visits from your family for years is pretty bad. I don't mind programs that require prisoners to work around the prison to reduce costs of operation.
I have a problem with the rampant crime and brutality in prison. I have a problem with the fact that prisons have just become human warehouses that do nothing at all to truly deter crime. Nobody wants to go to prison, but it seems like these days going to prison is the best thing you can do if you want to become a harder and better criminal. You get forced into a gang, you get trained in hand to hand combat, you learn how to manipulate police, and your ability to improve your life upon leaving the joint is greatly reduced. It just seems stupid.

Darth Whitey said...

I'd rather die than go to prison.

macon d said...

Yes, Big Man, I think that's the biggest irony in those discussions! Sad sad sad.

Shady_Grady said...

I agree with you Big Man but I don't know how many effective interventions can be done by the time someone is in prison for rape or murder. I think society should spend more time and resources before someone gets to a point where prison is a possibility.

For me and probably the vast majority of people reading this, the idea of going to prison is incredibly horrific. But for some folks it's just a cost of doing business. If someone has that mindset -e.g. John Gotti- can such a person be rehabilitated? I don't know.

Big Man said...


I think that a lot of the cats who see going to prison as an acceptable business risk would be more willing to change their mindsets if they were giving other options. Given the fact that most people in prison are there because of something narcotics related, I think that if we address the issue of job training and drug counseling in prison, maybe we can deter more crime.
I don't know if this is true, but it's obvious that what we're doing now really is not working.

Raving Black Lunatic