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Left Whines as Rikers Island Closes Down Gay “Dorm”

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 12:18 pm - January 5, 2006.
Filed under: Gay America,Gay Politics,Liberals

Our pal Chad at Cake or Death? has an interesting post today about plans at the Rikers Island prison to replace its “gay dorm” with a new “system that will protect any inmate who feels threatened.” While a number of left-wing groups, two of them gay, protested, this seems like a good plan to me. I always thought that the goal of the gay and lesbian movement should be to integrate us into society rather than create separate institutions where we would live apart from our straight peers.

Provided that the safety concerns of gay and lesbian inmates are met, shouldn’t prisons treat gay and lesbian convicts the same as straight prisoners? The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force think otherwise. These groups have written Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn asking him to “reconsider” his plan to shut down the prison’s dormitory for gay and transgender prisoners.

If some gay and lesbian people really do want to live in their separate enclaves, they should, of course, be allowed to do so. But, before breaking the law, these inmates should have considered that their behavior would likely deprive them of that option.

Now that I’ve whet your appetite, make sure you read Chad’s post for his take on the matter and a taste of his wit and wisdom.

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44 Comments

  1. They’re criminals. Why should their sexuality make any difference at all? How low have we sunk when criminals have “special needs”?

    Comment by rightwingprof — January 5, 2006 @ 2:05 pm - January 5, 2006

  2. Well said, rightwingprof.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — January 5, 2006 @ 2:45 pm - January 5, 2006

  3. From the CNN article:

    The unit, reserved for prisoners in pretrial detention, opened on the city’s island prison complex in the late 1970s to assuage complaints about abusive treatment of homosexuals. It has space for 146 prisoners but was holding 126 when it began emptying on November 28

    .

    We aren’t talking about convicted people here. This is pretrial holding. Heaven helps the state when it is sued when an innocent person is assaulted or killed before trial.

    Assuming that we are still innocent before proven guilty in this country.

    Comment by AntonW — January 5, 2006 @ 4:32 pm - January 5, 2006

  4. Even though they are criminals, the state has a responsibility to keep them safe. They were sentenced to imprisonment, not rape or assault. Prisoners known to be gay are at a greater risk for rape. That is not acceptable.

    Comment by mkb — January 5, 2006 @ 4:34 pm - January 5, 2006

  5. HBO did an hour long documentary on this Gay Dorm at Rikers several years ago. Look for it onDemand (if you have comcast cable). They usually recycle their documentaries every 6 months.

    Comment by Aaron - LLP — January 5, 2006 @ 4:55 pm - January 5, 2006

  6. I’ll just copy what I said at Chad’s site:

    In a jail setting, there are certain people who are going to be persecuted and beaten and worse by others. Gays are high on the list. I don’t think it’s necessarily a horrible thing to have a prison of their own. The whole point of prison is supposed to be, in part, rehabilitation. How can someone be rehabilitated if they are constantly being stabbed, beaten, or raped?

    I’m not sure if I would call this kind of place a “dorm”. This didn’t sound like a country club prison.

    and add:

    I wonder how many people are happy this prison is being closed because when they think of something especially for gays, they automatically think of PC or of leftism. That doesn’t always turn out to be the case. Sometimes separation is not a terrible thing, not when gays are always targeted when they are in a prison.

    Comment by Carl — January 5, 2006 @ 5:42 pm - January 5, 2006

  7. I’m surprised that no one has brought suit earlier but on the other side. A bit a go the Supreme Court said that segregation of races was unconstitutional regardless of how pure the motives (CA was segregating races to cut down on prison violence and it was working). If that’s not allowed why was it being allowed for a non-protected class?

    On the other hand, prison and holding facilities should be made safer. No, prison shouldn’t be fun but it shouldn’t be deadly either. I will be the first to admit I have no idea how to do this.

    Comment by cbi — January 5, 2006 @ 6:06 pm - January 5, 2006

  8. Funny, I thought our system of law & justice was “innocent until proven guilty”. Guess I got that one wrong. I am curious to know if there remains any proof that gay/lesbian/transgender inmates awaiting trial are particularly subject to more violence against them than other prisoners. If not, then maybe that’s the reason they’re closing this unit down.

    Comment by Kevin — January 5, 2006 @ 6:30 pm - January 5, 2006

  9. Carl wrote: “The whole point of prison is supposed to be, in part, rehabilitation.” I do not agree. First prison is punishment for having committed a crime. It is a means of removing dangerous and destructive people from the law abiding community. Secondly, prison might be a means of rehab – it is not guaranteed.

    I’m reminded of a simple definition of prison a grade school teacher provided me – Prison is a place where you loose your rights. This may be over-simplified. But it is at least on point. Those who commit crimes loose their freedom to live their lives as they wish. Having said that I see no problem with prisons segregating prisoners. If the outcome is a lower rape or murder rate then fine. If the same outcome can be achieved by a different means that’s fine too. But let’s not send a message to the general public that we believe gay prisoners deserve special treatment. They don’t.

    Comment by Dave — January 5, 2006 @ 7:32 pm - January 5, 2006

  10. -I do not agree. First prison is punishment for having committed a crime. It is a means of removing dangerous and destructive people from the law abiding community. Secondly, prison might be a means of rehab – it is not guaranteed.-

    I’m not sure why you think we disagree. I said prison is in part rehabilitation.

    With all the stereotypes of gay men being on drugs, being ridden with diseases, being weak, it’s just sad to me that all these male prisoners are going to be put into a situation where they will be beaten, where they will be raped and infected with various STDs, and so on. And of course when they get in this environment, they will be scorned and people will say that’s what they get for being in prison in the first place. It’s a very black and white view which only encourages what people claim to be repulsed by.

    Comment by Carl — January 5, 2006 @ 7:39 pm - January 5, 2006

  11. -I said prison is in part rehabilitation.-

    What I meant is I think prison is part punishment and part rehabilitation, depending on the crime. I didn’t mean to skimp on the punishment aspect.

    Comment by Carl — January 5, 2006 @ 7:40 pm - January 5, 2006

  12. #4 “Even though they are criminals the state has a responsibility to keep them safe.” (cue violins)

    Um, no. I’m pretty sure that any responsiblity the state might have in this area is to keep the prisoners from harming each other, not keep them safe. There’s a difference.

    And then this one: “Prisoners known to be gay are at a greater risk for rape.”

    Well, duh! If they’re “known” to be gay then dont’cha think they might WANT to get what you so delicately call “raped” but what they’d more accurately call “satisfied”? I mean, if I go to prison and then promptly tell everybody that I’m gay…well, you do the math.

    Comment by glisteny — January 5, 2006 @ 8:31 pm - January 5, 2006

  13. -If they’re “known” to be gay then dont’cha think they might WANT to get what you so delicately call “raped” but what they’d more accurately call “satisfied”?-

    Some sex in prison is consensual, of course. Otherwise, no, I don’t think they would call it satisfaction to be sodomized, without their consent and probably without lubrication or protection. If a gay man has to go the infirmary because he’s bleeding everywhere, then he isn’t having fun. This is the type of attitude so many gay men have to face when they are raped – people think they must have secretly enjoyed themselves, so what’s the big deal.

    -I mean, if I go to prison and then promptly tell everybody that I’m gay…well, you do the math.-

    You don’t have to tell everyone you are gay for people to think you are gay. If you are weak, or effeminate, they will peg you as gay. If they hear about your life outside prison and that involved sex with men, then they’ll think you are gay. Even if they don’t know for sure if you’re gay, they will go after anyone they think “seems” or “acts” or “looks” gay.

    Comment by Carl — January 5, 2006 @ 8:44 pm - January 5, 2006

  14. Damn It. Now that just ruins my vacation plans to New York. I was looking forward to visiting the place. Guess we’ll have to boycott against New York for cutting our rights back to the stone ages!

    Comment by sonicfrog — January 5, 2006 @ 9:07 pm - January 5, 2006

  15. Dan, you can do better.

    I love Dan, I really do. I work with him every year at Outfest. One on one, he’s a kind, honorable guy. Yet when he goes off on politics, I’m not sure he lives in the same world I do….

    Trackback by Naked Writing Dot Com — January 5, 2006 @ 10:06 pm - January 5, 2006

  16. Jody has a very passionate, albeit, misinformed post.

    It’s interesting how many people who are appalled by this whole ordeal seem to miss the fact that, while they are shutting down the GLBT haven, the prison plans on replacing it with a facility for ALL people who feel threatened.

    All. Everyone. Equal.

    …. revolutionary.

    Comment by Chad — January 5, 2006 @ 10:32 pm - January 5, 2006

  17. Umm, Chad?

    What part of “…to point out that closing a wing of a jail that focuses on those most at risk, without something else — other than vague promises — in place to pick up the slack doesn’t sound like a particularly bright idea is actually rather observant.” didn’t you understand?

    Let me know and I’ll “guide” you back, bud.

    Comment by Jody — January 5, 2006 @ 10:41 pm - January 5, 2006

  18. I disaggree. Realistically, there are extreme anti-homosexual tendencies in the prison system, especially against transgender prisoners, and you would be putting these groups at risk by mixing them with the general prison population. All activism for equality aside, it is pragmatically the best solution to look out for the welfare of the most vulnerable faction of the prison population.

    Comment by little cicero — January 5, 2006 @ 10:50 pm - January 5, 2006

  19. Oh, by the “prison system” I mean the prison population.

    Comment by little cicero — January 5, 2006 @ 10:51 pm - January 5, 2006

  20. Jody… pal… buddy… compadre….

    It may seem like a “vague promise” to you, but if the prison says that it plans on setting up a system for all people who feel threatened, I have no reason to disbelieve at this point. They know what their prison needs, the personalities of the inmates there. And they know that a safe and secure population is a happy population and makes their job a hell of a lot easier. If this move would upset that balance in any significant way, don’t you think they’d hold off on it?

    Or do you think the guards there just get a kick out of lounging back and watching men rape men and see this as an opportunity to make it happen?

    And a question… do the other 98% of prisons in the country that never had this gay-specific type of facility have higher incidents of assaults on gay prisoners? I’m just asking, I have no idea.

    Comment by Chad — January 6, 2006 @ 12:44 am - January 6, 2006

  21. This has, by and large, been a very good discussion. And I think my friend Jody raises some valid criticism in his valid criticismpost replying to mine.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — January 6, 2006 @ 1:07 am - January 6, 2006

  22. Interesting that you ask those questions, Chad.

    Hard, full and complete data on the subject, has been rather sparse, utilizing local or regional samples, anecdotal evidence, and inferences made in the light of data from other related areas. I’m not an expert on this by any sense, but I do have a basic grasp on what’s been going on.

    As is witnessed by comments here, most people don’t care if bunch of criminals rape each other. It was only namby-pamby liberals who were worried about this issue who did much of that research, research that spurred Congress to act.

    With the Prison Rape Prevention Act passing in 2003 with the first government published statistical study on the subject occurred in 2005. The study found that “…2,100 incidents of sexual violence were substantiated in U.S. prisons, jails, and youth detention centers l[in 2004]. What’s interesting is that 42% of those were staff on inmate assaults.

    In 1997, the last year the Feds collected any data prior to the 2003 law, found that most reports of abuse were ignored with 26,000 reported incidents and only about 1300 were referred for prosecution.midwest found one in five men reported sexual coercison and one in ten reported full on rapes.

    We know that even the numbers we do have as of 2005 undereport the crime — guys just don’t report the fact that they’ve been raped. (Women, who socially are “allowed” to report rape, still under report.)

    We know that “..[m]ale victims are often young, nonviolent, first-time offenders who are small, weak, shy, gay or effeminate, and inexperienced in the ways of prison life” as well as being chosen on “…the weakness and inability of the victim to defend himself.” [link above]

    We heard first hand testimony, before Congress this past year of what happened to many people while in either prison or jail, stories that included tales inmate on inmate rapes, guard on inmate rapes, and guards looking the other way while the prior two categories were happening.

    As we have the largest percentage of population incarcerated — we beat China — it’s not much of a guess to say that this is a big problem, with no easy answers. Thinking that concern over the closing the gay wing of a jail down fixes anything, especially, as I keep pointing out, when no new plan was reported, only promises, from a bureaucracy, is “whining” is basically rank stupidity.

    If you want to go digging and find what New York is proposing to do in lieu of its gay holding facility, great. I’d love to hear it. Perhaps they’re adopting the classification system California uses to identify the potential of the prisoner to be an aggressor on other inmates, you’d have something. If you knew the dates and timeline for whatever implementation is being conducted, then my concerns might be alleviated somewhat.

    But if you are going to maintain / agree it’s unwarranted “leftist whining” to be concerned and say “wait a second” regarding the changes at Rikers, you neither understand the issues, nor the rationale for them being raised.

    In short, you are speaking from ignorance kiddo, not patriotism.

    Comment by Jody — January 6, 2006 @ 2:15 am - January 6, 2006

  23. I can not believe you people gay people will never be protected in jail it would be like putting a colored person in a alabama jail during the civil war!!!! THEY WILL ALWAYS BE RAPED THATS WHAT HETEROS DO BEST RAPE CHILDREN, and people who can not protect themselfs. GROW UP PEOPLE!!!!! BOY DO THEY LOVE TO RAPE PEOPLE AND THEN CALL US THE RAPISTS!! SORDA LIKE THE CATHOLICS HAH!!!!! 99 percent of rapes are done by straight men not us. GRow up and smell the hetero roses they sting!!!!!

    Comment by Lisa — January 6, 2006 @ 8:05 am - January 6, 2006

  24. Forget not that the “whining” comment you’re on about originated here on this site. Not on mine. (It’s only implied there 🙂 )

    But really… are the people that are against this saying what you say they are? “Hey, hold on a sec…”?

    I guess we’re both a bit skeptical of the people involved in this issue – just on opposite sides. I have a hankerin’ that the Task Force and NYCLU heard of this news and had their knee-jerk reaction to it.

    They’re not asking Rikers to give more information about this new facility, they’re not asking how long it’s going to take before it’s up and running… They’re asking them not go through with shutting the current one down. Like it’s an entitlement.

    Comment by Chad — January 6, 2006 @ 8:13 am - January 6, 2006

  25. Prisoners known to be gay are at a greater risk for rape. That is not acceptable.

    Wrong. What is unacceptable is that they committed crimes. If you don’t want to be raped in prison, obey the law.

    Comment by rightwingprof — January 6, 2006 @ 8:18 am - January 6, 2006

  26. “If you don’t want to be raped in prison, obey the law.” – While I understand your sentiment, logically this is wrong. I’ve never heard of someone receiving a sentence of rape from a court of law.

    Again, someone above pointed out that these are pre-trial holdings. I think that changes the argument. I’m open to rational arguments either way.

    Comment by Jeremy — January 6, 2006 @ 10:06 am - January 6, 2006

  27. What’s interesting is that 42% of those were staff on inmate assaults.

    Not really. Having dealt with a public school system, I’ve had situations more than once where students claimed they had been assaulted by a teacher during detention or some other disciplinary action. It was the best way to get irate parents and “community leaders”, especially if the student was a minority, to show up on your doorstep.

    Invariably, the students’ stories unraveled after they found out security cameras had recorded the alleged “assault” and made it plain that it was, at best, a pat on the shoulder or back. However, there were several good teachers who were accused and quit because of it.

    What you have to remember, Jody, is that inmates are trained and conditioned to exploit the system. SPR, frankly, is one of the most naive organizations I’ve ever seen. For all the accusations they make of guards raping prisoners, I’d like just once for them to have to face the people who deal with that shit on a day to day basis who are spit upon, have crap flung on them, and are regularly accused of raping prisoners just to get them in trouble.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — January 6, 2006 @ 10:35 am - January 6, 2006

  28. But NDT –

    Doesn’t that just blow a huge hole in the “victims rights” argument? We all know that those who’ve committed crimes are privy to certain entitlements and that they are to be given the benefit of the doubt in any and all circumstances….

    (Note sarcasm)

    Comment by Chad — January 6, 2006 @ 11:06 am - January 6, 2006

  29. Well, Chad, noting the sarcasm (grin), the fact of the matter is that, in our system, “innocent until proven guilty” IS the underlying motive of almost everything we do.

    As I mentioned in my example, we couldn’t stop students from making the accusations; however, we can document and detail the exact situation and show that these students were in fact lying through their teeth. The same needs to be done at a prison level.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — January 6, 2006 @ 12:00 pm - January 6, 2006

  30. As someone who works in a prison, I’d like to throw my 2 cents in. In psychology services (also called mental health), we deal with the entire inmate population. I have interviewed a few men who have been sexually assaulted while incarcerated, and even more who have been physically assaulted. While it’s true that inmate reports of assaults are undereported, this is true for all inmates, not just gay ones. Shame and the inmate “code of conduct” help perpetuate this. As someone who has been a sex offender therapist, and researched the issue at length for school work, underreporting happends with all groups.

    The fact is that prison/jails have some very bad people in them. These people will exploit any weakness, or even perceived weakness. They can smell fear and can recognize weakness in an instant.

    The number one group of people who will be assaulted in prisons/jails are mentally ill offenders. When it comes to protecting inmates from harm, all should be protected.

    Comment by Jennifer — January 6, 2006 @ 12:45 pm - January 6, 2006

  31. I applaud thee NDT.

    Comment by Chad — January 6, 2006 @ 12:46 pm - January 6, 2006

  32. I used to work in the criminal justice system-jail in Kentucky and later a probation/parole officer for juveniles.

    None of the jails or prisons there that I am aware of at the time (early 90’s) had a seperate segregation/protective custody unit for gay inmates. They did all have some form of protective custody, but it was for any inmate that felt threatened by other inmates.

    Rape and sex are a reality in prisons and jails-it is mostly about power and control than about sex or sexuality.

    I think as long as Rikers maintains a section for inmates who feel threatened, there isn’t much argument for keeping it.

    Comment by Just Me — January 6, 2006 @ 4:42 pm - January 6, 2006

  33. WHAT PART OF “PRETRIAL DETENTION” DO YOU PEOPLE NOT GET?
    Innocent until proven quilty. God forbid one of you (rightwingprof) ever find yourself arrested by mistake, and thrown into a hell-hole like Rikers.
    ” If you don’t want to be raped in prison, obey the law. ”
    That’s like saying, ‘if you can’t handle having shit thrown at you , don’t work in The Penal System”. Both are unacceptable

    Comment by hank — January 6, 2006 @ 8:27 pm - January 6, 2006

  34. God forbid one of you (rightwingprof) ever find yourself arrested by mistake, and thrown into a hell-hole like Rikers.

    You know, Hank, television notwithstanding, that happens a lot less frequently than one might think. The fact that wrongful arrests get a lot more press coverage doesn’t mean there’s a lot of them.

    And also, as William Penn put it, prison is to “terrify the lawbreakers”. If the descriptions of life on the inside makes you think twice before going into questionable situations, that just may be the point.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — January 6, 2006 @ 9:27 pm - January 6, 2006

  35. It’s one thing to provide “separate” housing for gay or effeminate prisioners who have been CONVICTED of a crime, but for a “detainee” , who may have NOT , it may essential.

    “And also, as William Penn put it, prison is to “terrify the lawbreakers”. If the descriptions of life on the inside makes you think twice before going into questionable situations, that just may be the point. ”

    I take that you use this theory to support the death penalty?

    Comment by hank — January 6, 2006 @ 11:22 pm - January 6, 2006

  36. Interesting issue / discussion.

    I have to agree with Hank that in any PRE-TRIAL holding situation, since the accused is presumed innocent and NOT to be stripped of his/her rights just yet, his/her rights and person must be protected to the absolute fullest extent possible.

    Once (or if) a person has been duly convicted… it’s an interesting question.

    Obviously, the whole point of convicting them under due process and sentencing them to prison is to strip them of rights, as punishment for them having violated the rights of others. That’s what prison is (as someone pointed out).

    The question is: Which rights are they stripped of, and which do they retain? Is the right to be secure in one’s person (from assault, rape, or murder) among the rights they are to retain? I see voices here on both sides of the question.

    I think they do (or should) retain the right to be secure in their persons. It’s their rights to work for themselves, to have freedom of movement and association, to vote, and many other rights, that they are to be stripped of.

    Otherwise, why even have prisons? Why not just kill them all? Or starve them all? Or commit them to gulags, where tuberculosis is 70% likely to kill them within 5 years? The fact that we continue to grant prisoners some minimal rights and care is one of the things that sets us apart from Saudi Arabia or the former Soviet Union.

    Comment by Calarato — January 7, 2006 @ 12:54 am - January 7, 2006

  37. But just to be clear on GPW / Chad’s original point – I have absolutely no problem with prisons shutting down “gay” dorms and replacing them with more generalized “highly threatened prisoner” dorms (in which identified gays would still be included), if that’s what the prison administrators think necessary.

    Comment by Calarato — January 7, 2006 @ 1:01 am - January 7, 2006

  38. Yes Caloradp, thath hitsthaenail on the head. I

    Comment by hank — January 7, 2006 @ 8:32 am - January 7, 2006

  39. Yes Calorado, thah hits the nail on the head. I should have added…”a holding area for ALL pre-trial detainees (gay or not). They don’t belong with the general prison population, until convicted. ‘

    I’m startin’ to like you.

    Comment by hank — January 7, 2006 @ 8:37 am - January 7, 2006

  40. Calarado sorry about the typos

    Comment by hank — January 7, 2006 @ 8:39 am - January 7, 2006

  41. Damn my eyes…oops. Too late;)

    Comment by hank — January 7, 2006 @ 10:23 am - January 7, 2006

  42. […] Unuccesful screenplay writer, B. Daniel Blatt, a/k/a Gay Patriot West, is the other contributor to Gay Idiot. He offers up an Alice-in-Wonderland post where he actually defends the decision of Rikers to eliminate a separate wing for gay prisoners that felt that they would be unreasonably victimized in the general population. Gay Idiot West’s support for this is sorta like a chicken defending KFC’s practice of scalding chickens alive, but, hey, that’s par for the course for gay wingnuts. How does Dan defend this? With a choice nugget of wingnuttery: But, before breaking the law, these [gay] inmates should have considered that their behavior would likely deprive them of that option [of separate quarters]. […]

    Pingback by Outside The Tent — January 7, 2006 @ 1:18 pm - January 7, 2006

  43. I take that you use this theory to support the death penalty?

    Actually, for the death penalty, my theory is much more related to the fact that some people deliberately put themselves so far beyond the pale that they are a threat to others who can only be dealt with by death.

    As a deterrent, I’d consider it fairly weak; while some people MAY be scared away from murder by the fact that they would be killed for doing it, it’s a bit like showing teenagers drunk driving accident films….”Well, that’s not going to happen to ME, I’m smarter than that.”

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — January 8, 2006 @ 3:27 pm - January 8, 2006

  44. this is obviously one of the better points to argue.. in “pretrial detention areas” .. yes people should have the right to be protected until they are sent to prison, however, even being separated here does not guarantee their safety. as for prisons…everybody is at risk of sexual or physical assualt. once in prison…there are no “moms, gays, blacks, whites, etc…) its just another person walking down the corridor. inmates who prey on anybody are looking for power so the same does not happen to them. everybody knows the dangers of prisons… however nobody should receive special treatment… they DID break the law. sure..they want to be protected from harm on the inside but did they think about that as they were committing their crime… i think not, otherwise they wouldn’t be there in the first place. and to say gays are at greater risks, is inaccurate. anybody who considers prison their “home” is at risk. the same factors apply to supremists..(one race killing another puts them at risk of the same thing in jail) or even child molesters/rapists … are looked down upon once in prison… nobody should be given more rights than others once inside.

    Comment by eileen — July 28, 2007 @ 5:01 pm - July 28, 2007

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