No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons

No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons is the title of an influential, book-length 2001 report by Human Rights Watch on prison rape in the United States. The report is credited with playing a major role in the 2003 passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.


Human Rights Watch (HRW) had published several papers on the topic of prison rape in the years since its initial report on the topic in 1996. The 1996 paper, "All too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons", was released during a time when there was almost no Congressional support for legislation aimed at preventing prison rape.[1]

By 2001, no reliable national statistics existed on sexual violence in U.S. prisons.[2] There were, however, a few studies of prison rape within individual states prior to the start of the "No Escape" study in 1996. A survey in Nebraska that year indicated that 22 percent of inmates had been forced into sexual activity during their stint in the prison system.[3]


The report was authored by Joanne Mariner, at the time the deputy director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch.[4] The research was a collaborative effort by HRW staff, interns and other individuals.[5]


The study began in 1996, when announcements were published in Prison Legal News and Prison Life Magazine, both widely circulated within U.S. prisons. Soon after, the report's primary author, Mariner, received thousands of letters from inmates, many detailing rapes.[3] The book-length "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons" was released on April 19, 2001.[6] The report documented that prison rape was commonplace during a time when half of U.S. states compiled no statistics on the subject.[2] Brent Staples described the report, which was based partly on the testimony of over 200 inmate victims, as "grisly".[7]

"No Escape" surveyed 34 states' prison systems.[8][9] The report documented lurid accounts of prison rape, wherein inmates were being sold to other inmates as sex slaves. Men, instead of being beaten into submission, were coerced into sexual activity, sometimes while prison officials stood by.[7] In the report a group of six Texas inmates told HRW that sexual slavery "is commonplace in the system's most dangerous prison units."[10] "No Escape" identified prisons run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as the worst for incidents of prison rape;[11] this assertion was confirmed by later reports.[12][13] The report also collated similar testimony from inmates in Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, and California.[10]

"No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons" blamed indifference and feigned ignorance by prison officials for the widespread existence of male inmate on inmate sexual violence in American prisons.[14] When HRW queried Nebraska for information while compiling "No Escape" they were told that incidents were "minimal"; New Mexico told HRW no reported incidents had occurred in the past few years.[3] Numerous other states had similar responses that characterized such incidents as rare or not a problem; among those states the Department of Corrections in Alaska, Connecticut and Kentucky all noted they did not keep records of sexual violence reports.[4]


The release of "No Escape" has been called the event that contributed most to the passage of Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) two years later.[1][7] The report was cited in Congressional testimony surrounding the legislation which became law in September 2003.[4] The report cast incidents of prison rape as widespread, a contention that was dismissed as "overblown" by many prison officials.[9]

Regardless, the study was featured on the front page of The New York Times and other publications followed suit with coverage of the issue.[4] The media coverage introduced the reality of prison rape to many citizens for the first time.[4] Indeed, the text of PREA acknowledges the fact that it is dealing with a little-known crime, both in the general public and amongst those in government.[15][16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Smith, Brenda V. (Spring 2008). "The Prison Rape Elimination Act: Implementation and Unresolved Issues". Criminal Law Brief. Washington College of Law (WCL Research Paper No. 2008–49). OCLC 63521701. SSRN 1129810.
  2. ^ a b "Rape in Prison". The New York Times. 2001-04-22. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  3. ^ a b c Lewin, Tamar (2001-04-15). "Little sympathy or remedy for inmates who are raped". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  4. ^ a b c d e Coolman, Alex (May 2003). "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons". Prison Legal News. via Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. ISSN 1075-7678.
  5. ^ Mariner, Joanne (2001). "Acknowledgements". No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  6. ^ "Rape Crisis in U.S. Prisons" (Press release). Human Rights Watch. 2001-04-19. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  7. ^ a b c Staples, Brent (2004-11-27). "The Federal Government Gets Real About Sex Behind Bars". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  8. ^ Bell, Dan (2006-06-21). "They Deserve It". The Nation (2008–07–10). ISSN 0027-8378. OCLC 1643268. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  9. ^ a b "Preventing prison rape". St. Petersburg Times. 2003-08-29. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  10. ^ a b Liptak, Adam (2004-10-16). "Ex-Inmate's Suit Offers View Into Sexual Slavery in Prisons". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  11. ^ "ACLU Says Faulty Investigation by Texas Corrections Department Led to Grand Jury's Failure to Indict Rape Suspects" (Press release). American Civil Liberties Union. 2004-02-26. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  12. ^ Austin, James; Fabelo, Tony; Gunter, Angela; McGinnis, Ken (March 2006). "Sexual Violence in the Texas Prison System" (PDF). The JFA Institute. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  13. ^ "Texas Update: Texas State Prisons Plagued by Sexual Abuse" (PDF). Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. March 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  14. ^ "No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons -- Human Rights Watch". The Scout Report for Social Sciences & Humanities; Volume 4, Number 17. Internet Scout Project, Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin–Madison. 2001-05-01. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  15. ^ "Public Law 108-79, September 4, 2003 (Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003)". Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs, United States Department of Justice. 2003-09-04. Archived from the original on May 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  16. ^ Teret, Stephen P.; Julie Samia Mair; Shannon Frattaroli (Winter 2003). "New Hope for Victims of Prison Sexual Assault" (PDF). The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics via Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. ISSN 1073-1105. Retrieved 2008-06-06.

Further readingEdit