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Why Prison Rape Jokes Are Really Not Funny

With hundreds of thousands of sexual assaults behind bars annually, prison rape is no laughing matter.

Infamous internet rag TMZ isn't the only entity to ever laugh at prison rape. Chances are a person close to you has joked about "dropping the soap" at least once in your life. Humor like this is pretty cheap on its face but new data from the U.S. Department of Justice makes it even worse.

According to an article in the July issue of Reason magazine, the federal government's first ever inquiry into prison rape found that nearly 217,000 American inmates, both those in the penitentiary and juvenile detention facilities, were raped in 2008. Worse still is that each victim was assaulted an average of three to five times over the course of the year. Most of the rapists weren't other inmates but prison staffers. It's no wonder the vast majority of rapes go unreported for fear of retribution.

America's leadership has yet to take prisoner rape seriously, which exacerbates the problem. Writes Lovisa Stannow in Reason, "In 2009 [Attorney General Eric] Holder essentially rejected standards recommended by a bipartisan commission that spent years studying the problem of prisoner rape, claiming that the recommendations ... would have been too expensive."

Not only should the constant threat of sexual violence be considered cruel and unusual punishment for our nation's prisoners, it also suggests that we shouldn't be surprised when many American felons come out of jail angrier than when they went in. Which once again calls into question what the goal of our prison system is: To rehabilitate or brutally abuse?

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