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Commission Examines Not-So-Funny Reality of Prison Rape

I find the topic of sexual abuse in prisons both depressing and compelling. On "the outside," rape is viewed as the price a convict should expect to pay for his or her crime. References to prison in everyday conversations or popular culture (like this soap as promotional product for the TV show Prison Break) typically involve jokes about rape. Once a criminal is involved, it seems like it's suddenly OK to joke about an otherwise taboo topic.

Although pop cultural references to sexual abuse in prison tend to be lighthearted and humorous, prison rape is a serious problem deserving attention. A federal commission was set up to look into prison rape, and the numbers are startling. According to the report released today, at least 60,000 inmates are sexually abused every year.

Based on the research, more prisoners claimed abuse by staff than by other inmates. In addition, short, young, gay, or female inmates were more likely to be victimized than other inmates.

Hopefully the common sense guidelines offered by the commission, such as strict background checks for staff and medical attention for victims, will keep inmates (who are human beings just like everyone else) safer and address the challenges prison rape presents to public health and inmate rehabilitation efforts.

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