Re: “Workers at federal prisons are committing some of the crimes” [Nov. 14, Nation & World Politics]:

Prisons are rampant with sexual abuse. Three to 9% of male inmates say they have been sexually assaulted behind bars. For women, these numbers are significantly higher: They total 7% of the total prison population but 33% of all victims of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization. Nearly half of all allegations of sexual abuse in prisons for men and women involve staff.

I take issue with the framing of this article that generalizes crime by guards as the problem plaguing prisons. The article speaks of nonviolent violations, such as breaking rules to help a prisoner get a GED diploma, alongside issues of rape as if these hold similar severity. To speak of an epidemic in crime among guards obscures the more pressing and harmful issue at hand of sexual violence within prisons.

The prevalence of sexual abuse in prisons reveals a deep contradiction of the prison system: that while we treat incarceration as the solution to rape, prisons are continuing to generate more rapists. Thinkers like Angela Davis have long advocated for prison abolition, citing such problems as fundamental to the structure of the prison, and point to the need for alternate modes of justice such as transformative justice to address harm between individuals.

Mary Sprague, Seattle