Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

From the Editor

This month’s cover story on the prevalence of prisoner rape and sexual abuse by prison and jail staff is the third major article of its type PLN has run since 2006. This is in addition to the dozens of articles we publish each year on other news reports and lawsuits related to prison and jail employees raping prisoners, plus the short write-ups we run in our News in Brief (NIB) section in each issue.

The genesis for these “round up” compilations came when we would save all the source articles for our News in Brief section. As I would compile materials for the NIB, I would seek a cross-section of reports, both geographic and news-wise. Since most NIB sections had at least 2-3 items about prisoners being raped by employees, I would put the excess reports aside, thinking I would use them in the next month’s issue. Otherwise the NIB section would become the “Prisoners Raped by Employees” section of PLN.

Alas, by the time the next month’s NIB section was ready there would be still more stories on the topic, and thus the pile of news articles on prisoner rape and sexual abuse would grow. After awhile the pile of articles was several inches high, hence the idea to run compilation cover stories – which also serve to demonstrate the widespread nature of the problem of prison and jail employees sexually assaulting the prisoners in their care and custody.

It is worth noting that for this month’s cover story we limited the included news reports to those within the past one-year period, which was far from an exhaustive search. This is simply what comes across our desks in the ordinary course of PLN’s regular news gathering, and it includes the obvious caveat that the vast majority of sexual assaults committed by prison and jail employees are never reported, are not covered by the mainstream news media and do not result in legal action, whether civil or criminal.

Yet it is prisons in the Balkans, not the U.S., that are referred to as “rape camps.” Further, the connection between human rights, the fundamental right to be free from rape and sexual abuse, and prison and jail officials carrying out such assaults is never raised in the mainstream media or addressed by the U.S. government. As this issue’s cover story notes, nine years after its enactment the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s minimal standards have not been implemented, which indicates how low of a priority preventing prison rape is for government officials. In a future issue of PLN we will discuss the limitations and weaknesses of PREA itself, which does little to actually limit, stop or prevent the rape and sexual abuse of prisoners.

The saddest duty I have as editor of PLN is reporting the death of our friends and supporters. After almost 22 years of publishing this has been a regular and dreaded part of my job. In previous issues of PLN I had mentioned Nelly, our office mascot. Nelly was a 12-year-old golden retriever who belonged to Susan Schwartzkopf, our advertising director. Since Susan started working for PLN in 2007, Nelly came to work with her and was a joy to have in our office. Nelly liked everyone. When she met people who weren’t dog friendly she was determined to win them over, and she always did. She had the UPS and FedEx delivery people well-trained to bring her treats whenever they delivered packages to our office.

On March 15, 2012, Nelly died in her sleep at home. She will be sorely missed by all of her friends and family members, and everyone who works at PLN. She came to the office until one week before she died, and was slow and lethargic, which was not like her. The veterinarian gave her only a short time to live. Susan brought Nelly home and over the next several days many of Nelly’s friends came by to visit and say goodbye. She got to eat all of her favorite foods: steak, pizza crusts, crab rangoon and other goodies. Even as her health declined she was happy to see everyone and did her best to make everyone around her happy.

I thought that as these things go, Nelly made a great exit from the stage of life: She was at home, surrounded by her friends and family, getting all the love and attention she needed and all her favorite treats. That is a far cry from the reality faced by the 5,000 prisoners, on average, who die in prisons and jails across the U.S. each year. Would that we should all be so lucky when our time comes to pass away.

The PLN office will be a much sadder and quieter place without Nelly, who will be greatly missed. She was buried in the yard of Susan’s house next to the woods she loved to roam in, where she chased squirrels she never caught. We would like to thank the many people who have expressed their sorrow over Nelly’s passing.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login