Taking advantage in prison

Hark at exactly how far our world will go to ignore associations between sex, institutional power and abuse.

Six New Zealand prison officers have been sacked over the past five years for having sexual relationships with prisoners…..Department of Corrections general manager for human resources Vince Arbuckle said such relationships between prison guards and prisoners were not frequent.

“It’s a very rare event. The environment is not one where these kind of relationships can flourish ordinarily.”

Arbuckle said he did not necessarily think prisoners were trying to take advantage of guards.

“What I expect this is about is two human brings forming a relationship in an unusual place.”

Yeah, unusual all right.  One of you, lets call them “Guard”, can tell the other one of you, lets call them “Prisoner”, what to do, and they have to do it.  Guard controls whether Prisoner is allowed to spend time with other people, or has to be alone at all times.  Guard controls how much time Prisoner is allowed outside their room.  Guard controls when Prisoner see people outside of prison.  Guard goes home at night, leaving Prisoner locked up.  Guard can restrain Prisoner whenever they see cause, order strip searches of Prisoner, watch Prisoner wash.  Guard can decide what kinds of activity Prisoner is allowed to do.  Guard can stop Prisoner having a beer, smoking a joint, watching television, having a massage, doing yoga, doing any of the things most people do to chill out.

Guard and Prisoner can only have their relationship in an unusual place if Guard makes sure they have a room to themselves.  In fact, the relationship can only flourish if Guard lies to colleagues, hides what they are doing, and makes sure Prisoner doesn’t tell anyone else.

I can’t decide if this is repulsively sloppy journalism, or if the Department of Corrections, those responsible for dealing with people who commit crimes of sexual violence, really do not understand this issue at all.  And if that’s the case, why did they fire the Guards?

Because they were “taken advantage of”?  Or because these Guards had sex with people they had extreme amounts of power over, sex in an institutional setting in which saying “no” is not really an option?

It’s not relationships which struggle to flourish in prisons, Mr Arbuckle, it’s consent.

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One thought on “Taking advantage in prison

  1. Interesting. Re “It’s not relationships which struggle to flourish in prisons, Mr Arbuckle, it’s consent”. Perhaps however, some guards are in fact forced to do favours for inmates due to the power some inmates can wield outside the prison walls. Others are just plain stupid. Some guards seek to gain approval and friendships from inmates – for whatever reason – by going out of their way to sneak in contraband etc. So to assume that these “inappropriate relationships” automatically preclude consent is a big call.

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