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Abuse In Prisons

Abuse In Prisons - Medomsley Detention CentrePrisons have several functions, but are not intended to be havens for paedophiles operating within the prison system, rather they are custodial institutions designed to punish, amongst others, sex offenders who have committed crimes.

Punishment has several functions:

  • Reformative – to endeavour to change an offender into a non-offender
  • Retributive – to impose the sort of treatment which society requires in order to redress the needs of the victims of the crime committed eg compensation.
  • Punitive – to impose an appropriate penalty on an individual to recognise society’s disapproval of the crime committed.

The sexual or physical abuse of a prisoner, self evidently, does not fall within any of the above categories.

When prisons become full, in a similar way to any institution designed to accommodate human beings, the pressures on prison staff become greater. When capacity turns into overcrowding, then the ratio of supervisors to the supervised becomes disproportionate, such that incidents, which would otherwise be prevented, take place.

Because of overcrowding, prisoners are often forced to share cells with individuals who are known sex offenders, and are recommended not to be suitable to share with other prisoners.

In such situations, should a rape or sexual assault take place, then the prison can be held to be to blame for the incident. Accordingly an investigation, and criminal prosecution, should take place. Logically, the prisoner should be moved to a different prison whilst the investigation occurs so as to avoid reprisal attacks from those involved.

There have been a number of high profile cases of sexually abusive prison staff such as at Medomsley Detention Centre, where a number of sex offenders are known to have infiltrated the prison staff and abused prisoners over a number of years.

Within prisons there are guidelines and legislation which govern the way in which prisoners should be treated, and prisons managed. Additionally, prisons are inspected on a regular basis. Any complaint can be made to the Governor.

Prisons are yet another example of a cloistered environment where individuals are housed in conditions where their liberty, self-evidently, is restrained and confined. Inevitably, prisoners, by definition, are deprived of certain rights as a punishment for their crimes. Not surprisingly, therefore, the opportunity exists for abuse to take place because the environment is separate and detached from day to day life. Because people are housed in close proximity to each other, where the police are at arm’s length to the prisoners, the opportunity to commit abuse, will arise.

There are juveniles in the custody of special young offenders institutes, but the majority of prisoners are over the age of 18. As such, therefore, abuse has to be committed without the consent of the victim, whereas any sort of sexual or physical assault of juveniles will be illegal per se, with or without their consent. There are of course specific legal rules about consent, but in general terms, any sort of sexual activity with a juvenile is deemed to be done without consent.

For instance, the abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre was so severe in the past that the links between institution, the administrative system and abuse in prison is a subject which the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is examining.

The abuse of prisoners can be categorised as sexual, physical, or emotional or racial.

Places Where Institutional Abuse Can Happen:

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