Rape in jails not common

Canadian male prison rape may be more myth than fact.

“I don’t think it’s nearly as common as people think,” says Dr Paul Federoff, a Clarke Institute Of Psychiatry shrink.

He’s with the forensic unit and works with sex offenders both inside and outside the jails.

He says he doesn’t hear about prison rapes as often as would be expected.

“I think the idea of being locked up and raped by someone else is a fairly frightening thought and it seems conceptually possible,” says Federoff.

Anne Marie Dicenso, a harm reduction co-ordinator at PASAN (Prisoner HIV/AIDS Support Action Network), says rape in Canadian jails happens much less often than in the US – where a lot of TV shows, movies and other media seen in Canada originates.

“One of the main reasons is that you have people in much smaller prisons,” says Dicenso.

She’s talked to thousands of convicts.

She says fewer inmates in Canadian prisons provide less reason for violence. Sentences aren’t as long and sex offenders are kept segregated from the rest of the population.

Also, the code of conduct in Canadian prisons is more strictly against rape. Any prisoner considered a rape-hound gets beaten up.

Dicenso says the majority of prisoners in Canada are behind bars due to drug-related offences and most people have an idea of prisoners being more violent than they are.

Exact numbers on rapes in Canadian prisons are hard to come by.

Corrections Canada doesn’t keep stats.

Ontario Correctional Services doesn’t usually, either. But, after a request, they broke down some numbers from earlier this year.

From January to March 1999, there were 411 allegations of assault in Ontario facilities. Eight were allegations of sexual assault (those could include everything from inappropriate touching to rape).

There are 7,600 adults in Ontario’s custody at any given time. The average stay is less than 90 days.

Dicenso says there is quite probably under-reporting. And she adds that no matter how low the number, the rape remains something completely horrific for the individual.

“I don’t want to take away from people who have been raped – clearly that does happen.”

The Prisoner HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN) is at (416) 920-9567.

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