Midnight Mural – A revealing look at what happens in the prison system regarding sexual harassment and assault

The Picture

It’s a Friday night, you and some friends take part of the night life of Downtown Atlanta. Hopping from scene to scene, one of your friends accidentally spills a drink on someone. The situation escalates rather quickly and it results in a small fight. During the fight, someone hits their head on the ground and dies. The police get called and your friends as well as yourself are arrested and being charged with homicide. Now you all are looking at 10 to 15 years in prison. Now what? Last names now turn into prison numbers. Laced shoes turn into slip ons, belts turn into elastic and fashion transitions to solid colored jump suits. Surviving comes before reasoning, and cigarettes hold more value than you do. A night in the city morphed into a morning in the penitentiary. So now what? You adapt. You thrive. You grow. You make a few friends and dodge making enemies. You learned the slang, the system and the currency.

The Frame

Prison might seem distant, but it’s a reality far closer than many people think. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 20.1% of inmates are between the ages of 18-30, while 36.6% are from the age of 31-40. Prisons are home to some of the most gruesome fights, murders and sadly rapes. Sexual assault has been a problem in the prison system for years and has received little to no attention. Actually, prison rape has carried a comical connotation for quite a while now. Sayings like “Don’t drop the soap”? to witty remarks about Vaseline and anal rape show how “serious”? people take this matter. On top of the comical link to prison rape; prison rape has also earned slang phrases such as “Putting up the curtain”? or “Shower Time”?. The most commonly known method of rape in jail is same sex rape, whether male to male, or female to another female. With the dim light of sexual injustice shining on same sex rape, people forget that there is another form called transgender rape. Ms. Passion Star is a transgender inmate who is held in a prison in Texas. Ms. Star is has survived multiple accounts of sexual harassment and trauma while being in prison. She has reported multiple occurrences of prison rape to authorities yet no action has been taken.

The Mural

The reality is that rape is wrong, whether you are an inmate or not. Another point is that prison rape does not only affect prisoners but it actually affects everybody. High levels of prison rape can lead to a higher transmission rate of HIV in prison, as well as out of prison once they are released. Released inmates are more likely to commit another crime if they experienced a traumatizing event while imprisoned, such as rape. Due to high levels of prison rape, there is also a demand for extra psychological help for those who have been traumatized. So where do we stand now? What do we do to prevent rape in the prison system? Some prison systems practice a high surveillance operation system that reports very few if any rape cases. While on the opposite spectrum certain prisons have more rape cases than several prisons combined. America is taking a deeper and more extensive look at what is going on in the prison system, and hopefully, we can remove the curtain for good.

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