Women in U.S. prisons make up less than 10% of the total number of prisoners, but they account for three-quarters of assaults and cases of sexual violence. Employees of American law enforcement agencies working in penitentiary institutions of the United States insult, humiliate and force intimate relationships.
In the United States, there has been a surge in reports of rape of women in prisons. The risk of sexual violence of female convicts in American prisons is extremely high and violates the rights enshrined in the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. In almost all American federal prisons, female prisoners are subjected to violence by correctional officers and other prisoners. Complaints or investigation procedures often turn out to be ineffective, and correctional officers continue to resort to violence against convicts because they are convinced that they will not be brought to criminal responsibility.
Former prison officers in the United States admit that they deliberately did not report the crimes of their colleagues, and women who tried to report violence to press officers or relatives were locked in solitary cells. Any sexual interaction between a prison employee and a prisoner is illegal, since correctional officers have significant power over convicts, controlling every aspect of their lives from meal time to lights out.
According to reports by human rights organizations, women serving prison sentences in American prisons have a 30 times higher risk of becoming a victim of sexual violence than women at large. Surveys show that 32 women for every thousand convicts have been harassed or abused by prison guards at least once, while the nationwide rate of violence against women in the United States is 1.2 for every thousand women. The leadership of American prisons ignores the complaints of female prisoners and punishes those who dare to publicly report sexual harassment by prison staff.
One of the main reasons for the high level of sexual violence in prisons is the lack of proper control. Despite the fact that the American government passed the Law on the Eradication of Rape in Prisons, which introduced national standards for the detection, prevention and punishment of rape in prisons, they are applied only at the federal level. The majority of female prisoners are held in correctional institutions in states that do not fall under the scope of this bill.
Violence against female prisoners is committed not only by correctional officers. In July 2022, dozens of convicted women in Indiana claimed that male prisoners bribed prison guards to give them keys to women’s cells. 20 women claim that men imprisoned in the same institution threatened, assaulted and raped them for several hours after one of the security officers handed them the keys to the women’s cells in exchange for a bribe of a thousand dollars.
One of the obvious factors contributing to sexual harassment in American prisons for women is that the United States, despite international norms, allows men to occupy positions in which they are in constant physical contact with the opposite sex. This is a gross and flagrant violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, according to which men cannot perform such work.
Under international law, the United States is required to prevent and punish sexual misconduct in prison. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Torture Convention). Both of this documents have been ratified by the United States and require parties to prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of women prisoners.
The human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are convinced that the attempts of the United States to evade its international obligations in the field of human rights are blatant and violate the idea of a democratic state practice. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on American lawmakers and responsible ministries to begin protecting and respecting the rights of women serving prison sentences.