Raped by the System: A Comparison of Prison Rape in the United States and South Africa

Raped by the System: A Comparison of Prison Rape in the United States and South Africa


The main objective of this article is to create overall awareness and to give people a real sense of the events that go on every day inside prison walls. The article is meant to show people that the way they think about prison and prison rape specifically is severely jaded. What happens behind prison bars should certainly not stay behind prison bars. The stories within this article are unlike any prison rape stories people have heard before. They are harsh, inhumane, and deeply disturbing. The only way to incite change is to open people’s eyes to the true conditions within prisons. People tend to want to change things that pull at their heartstrings and evoke strong emotions. Most people do not exactly reserve a warm spot in their heart for criminals. Hopefully, this article will change their minds.

This article will compare prison rape in two countries, the United States and South Africa. These two specific countries were strategically chosen because of their contrasting societies. The United States is one of the most affluent countries in the world, while South Africa severely lags behind. The dynamics between gender and race are also very different within the countries, which would lead one to believe their treatment of prisoners would be drastically different. This article will illustrate how two radically different countries are surprisingly and disturbingly alike in how they manage their prison systems. It will first compare the basic prison conditions and general populations of the two countries. It will then journey into the unchartered territory of sexual violence in each country’s prison systems. Then it will explore the actions that each country is taking to better their prison systems. Lastly, it will present the argument that prison rape is considered torture under international law, in addition to a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Author: Alexandra Ashmont, Pace University School of Law

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