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Women in State Custody     auf Deutsch

A guard's hand rests on the grate of a heavy metal door leading to one of the five compounds of the Tatuape Women's Prison, in São Paulo, Brazil. The prison originally housed a juvenile detention center but was closed because of poor conditions. It was later reopened as a women's prison without any additional renovations. © 1998 Cynthia Cox
Prison guards and other corrections officials subject women prison inmates to degrading treatment, harassment, and torture. Male jailers sexually and physically abuse women in custody, especially those held without access to courts, counsel, or their families. The abuse, including rape, inappropriate sexual touching, beatings, excessive pat-downs and strip searches, and the use of sexualized language, is a crude example of the power imbalance between guards and prisoners, as well as between men and women. For example, in Pakistan, women inmates report beating and slapping, suspension in mid-air by hands tied behind the victim’s back, insertion of foreign objects (including police batons and chili peppers) into the vagina and rectum, and gang rape. Despite these alarming reports, police almost never face criminal penalties for such abuse. When raped by guards, women inmates are routinely denied access to medical care and forensic evidence exams that could corroborate their allegations. In the United States, prison guards threaten women prisoners with violence or denial of privileges should the women report the misconduct or seek redress. As a result, incarcerated women are intimidated into silence, and their attackers remain free to continue the abuse. This persists due to official tolerance of such behavior and impunity for the perpetrators.