The intentions to protect the rights of prisoners, as well as to create equal conditions for them, maybe interpreted in many different ways. Sexual abuse is not always a typical feature of incarceration, and leaders always can create the facilities with safety and protection being offered. There is a thought that the creation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) has significantly improved the conditions under which prisoners can feel safe providing the possibility to report on assailants and reducing the number of unwanted sexual conflicts in jails. However, it is not correct to believe that this act is the only legal document to reduce and control unwanted sexual contact in jails and prisons in terms of which prisoners are provided with fail-safe incentives and protections that may encourage victims of sexual assaults to report on their assailants. The experience of Erin George proves that this federal act plays a certain role in jail life; however, such issues as power, respect, and desire can never be neglected in understanding jail relationships.
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After reading the book A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women written by Erin George, many readers get a unique opportunity to understand that it is impossible to predict and control female life in prison. The peculiarities of the relationships which are developed between female prisoners differ considerably so that it is not easy to provide a clear description of what can happen in prison even if a solid basis of knowledge about criminology and law is obtained. For example, the PREA may be used as a step to control sexual relationships between prisoners, but it cannot be defined as a purely positive or negative approach that has a certain impact on the management of jail life. Rape has been considered as one of the most controversial issues in society during many centuries due to the inability to create one definite attitude to this act. On the one hand, there are numerous rape cultures where people create the environments full of sexual assault and violence and believe that it is normal to develop such relationships (Phipps, Ringrose, Renold, and Jackson 2017). On the other hand, rape, as well as other forms of sexual assault, is an abusive act that may change human lives considerably. In the modern world, people fail to understand if rape is a problem or a solution to their problems. However, the presence of special healing programs and the intentions to protect people against unwanted sexual relationships and violence prove that rape remains to be a problem (Schulhofer 2017). Rape is a social problem, and it has to be solved.
Rape in prison has its characteristics and impact. George (2010) states that, in prison, consensual sex may take place. Still, its true details, history, and outcomes remain to be unknown to many people. There is a belief that the Prison Rape Elimination Act is the law with the help of which prisoners can be protected against sexual assaults and unwanted sexual contact. It determines certain rules, conditions, and punishments for rapists in jails and prisons. However, it is necessary to remember that prisoners are the people who have already broken the law, and it is hard to believe that they are going to follow this particular legal regulation in jail or prison. In her book, George (2010) tries to explain that such a hotline in the form of the PREA can be used only when “actual incidents of sexual harassment” are documented (p. 58). The problem is that not all prisoners are ready to report on these cases officially and continue suffering and accepting their faith as it is.
Finally, it is necessary to understand that rape is a combination of numerous attributes and characteristics. During the lectures, several elements of rape have been discussed, including power, control, manipulation, anger, and sadism. An understanding of these elements is obligatory because it helps to conclude that jail/prison relationships may be defined by the law and the PREA in particular, but they also depend a lot on such issues as power, respect, and desire. Victims of sexual assault may report on their assailants and believe that, according to the law, they can be protected all the time. However, no one can give enough guarantees that their lives and bodies are safe when they are alone in their jails. There is the law people try not to break in prisons and jails, but also, there is the law of prisons and jails, and not all people, especially those who have never been there, can understand its essence.
In general, the Prison Rape Elimination Act may be considered as a legal document that aims at protecting the rights of prisoners and defining the conditions under which unwanted sexual contacts can be avoided. It may encourage victims of sexual assault to report on their assailants. However, relying on the experience of Erin George, it is clear that all sexual relationships are far from being officially reported. There are such concepts as power, respect, or anger, and they play a more serious role in controlling sexual relations in jails and prisons compared to the law.
George, Erin. 2010. A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Phipps, A., Ringrose, J., Renold, E., and Jackson, C. 2017. “Rape Culture, Lad Culture and Everyday Sexism: Researching, Conceptualizing and Politicizing New Medications of Gender and Sexual Violence.” Journal of Gender Studies 2017.
Schulhofer, S.J. 2017. “Reforming the Law of Rape.” Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice 35(2): 335-352.