Last week the Department of Justice released a report showing that sexual violence is on the rise in American prisons. 

Over 6,000 cases of sexual violence were reported by U.S. prisoners in 2006. Sexual violence jumped 21 percent from 2004 to 2006 and in over half of the reported cases victims said prison guards were perpetrators of sexual violence. Official data collection on sexual violence, in U.S. prisons, began in 2004.

Liliana Segura from Alternet said, “It's hard to get people riled up about prison rape. Rampant though it may be, it's widely treated as little more than a cultural punchline; the subtext being that most prisoners probably deserve it.”

But with the US prison population the largest in the world, a spike in sexual violence behind prison walls means the cesspit that passes for our criminal justice system is getting even worse. And while feeble efforts have been made in recent years to legislate solutions, the root problem lies with outdated policies that have led to the prison boom–and the politics that keep them in place.

Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR), an LA-based human rights group released a study last spring linking the “War on Drugs with the rise in sexual violence in prisons.”

SPF directors reported:  

Studies show that as many as 20 percent of male prisoners have been pressured or coerced into sex, and 10 percent have been raped. While any detainee can become the victim of prisoner rape, people serving drug sentences, many of whom are young, unschooled in the ways of prison life, and non-violent, are among those at greatest risk. With little or no institutional protection, prisoner rape survivors are left with physical injuries, are impregnated against their will, contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and suffer severe psychological harm."