Many will consider this a perverse subject, one they would rather ignore than discuss. To do so is to deny nature. For those concerned with the health and well-being of prisoners no subject could be more important. Rape in prison is the most studied aspect of this, but is only the tip of the iceberg. It is the visible expression of the natural urges that all humans have. Every person in prison will be affected by the lack of sexual outlets. Prisoners are being incarcerated at ever younger ages for longer periods of time. Many come to prison as teenagers, young men in their sexual prime, and are middle-aged before they are released, if they are released at all. How then can we expect sex not to be prevalent?

With so many sexually frustrated individuals in close proximity to each other, it is a wonder more violent rapes do not occur. Looking at the sexuality of the prison population as a whole we can examine how these sexual energies manifest themselves behind prison walls. Through understanding these forces we can learn to redirect them in more civilized, less destructive, manners. This could limit the negative effects of incarceration on prisoners.

Whenever you deny human beings their normal sexual outlets you create an environment where abnormal sexual practices flourish. All have heard the horror stories of young men being raped in prison. It may be the most typical image of prison life. There is good news, and bad. Fortunately the violent rapes, so often portrayed in movies, are rare. They do happen more often than is documented. In most cases it is not the fear of the one they have sex with but fear of the many promises he makes to protect them that coerces a new prisoner into sexual servitude. It is certainly psychological rape, and as such criminal. This may be more damaging to the psyche than the physical rape. The ego is shattered either way. These men lose their self-esteem and begin to view themselves at fault in their abuse. Often they develop a female persona because they can no longer see themselves as men. This couldn’t happen to a man. In this way their manhood is stolen as much by our Culture which is so unaccepting of alternative sexualities as their rapist.

Whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, their self-image is destroyed. None, or very few, would believe this could happen to them before it did. Many who once thought themselves to be “macho men” have found out this sad truth: None is exempt. The intelligent prisoners are most susceptible to psychological manipulation. Once they see saying “No!” is not enough, they realize they are in a violent world, surrounded by violent people, where the language of civilization is not spoken. The only language many are willing to hear is the language of violence. It is a language all in prison. learn to speak if they wish to survive: For those incapable of such speech there is only to learn to obey. Whether you fight or surrender you learn every nuance. It matters not at all that they are non-violent criminals who have no knowledge of raw, unbridled violence. Texas prison makes no such distinction. It is no surprise that the most passive men, once they spend time in prison, can turn aggressive and dangerous. Because they have been forced to learn violence they are more likely to return to prison for violent crimes. Recidivism is just one portion of the problems that are caused by rampant sexual energies without a proper release to dissipate these natural forces.

Any time you have men locked up in close quarters some will be sexual predators. Often prison did not create these predators, though prison may enhance a psychological weakness already present. They get pleasure from the physical power over another more than from sexual copulation. They are sadistic in the way of all rapists, They prey upon the weakest individuals they have access to, fully aware of the harm they do because that pain is where they derive their pleasure.

Through their cruelty the door is opened to a kinder predator. These are psychological rapists, likely to perceive themselves kindly benefactors of those they take advantage of, never realizing the harm they are causing. In many ways they do more damage than the more physical assailants. At least a man can feel he fought against the physical assault. With these he surrenders himself for the refuge of a lovers embrace of his own free will. Psychological rapisti are seldom capable of expressing love, or recognizing it; though love is part of their rhetoric. Many times their emotional needs enslave them to the whim of those they thought to enslave.

At times you find violent homophobes facing irresistible urges to share physical sexual contact. Once the sex is done they are overcome with guilt and self-hatred. To deny their own culpability requires them to blame that “queer” for seducing them. This may lead to a beating for their partner to help them expunge the internalized guilt their actions engendered. It is usually the case that those most vocal in publicly decrying homosexuals are willing partners in private. It is only a facade to hide their sexuality from peers. These are always dangerous due to the act of sex, when faced, bringing on a bout of hatred of self that transforms to hatred of the homosexual partner.

Texas prison uses the terms “pitcher” and “catcher.” Those who pitch are considered heterosexuals and, of course, the catchers are all gay. In tact, these pitchers are more attracted to men [catchers are men] than are the catchers who catch only against their will and get no pleasure from it. They only catch out of fear and a need of protection. All pitchers choose to catch. So, who’s gay?

For those who do not succumb to the pressures of prison in homosexual sex acts there is another form of sexual self-expression available which could well be just as destructive in its own way. Most become bored with simple masturbation after a few months then seek more exciting forms of release. For many this takes shape in exhibitionism. It soon becomes a way of life. Individuals spend hours each day stalking female employees, refusing to sleep when any woman is around. They hide in prisoners’ restrooms, on hallways, until they see any female, then open the door to expose themselves. They believe she enjoys seeing them exposed. Some do. But most women are angry and embarrassed to be treated in this callous manner. It may seem harmless. It isn’t. From the prisoner’s point of view it is easier to understand. Try being locked in a cell with a man who spends every waking moment standing in the door exposing himself. Take a walk on one of the common recreation yards when a female is in sight and you will find men standing side-by-side masturbating. Consider that they have no thought of others who will later walk, lean, or sit in the mess they leave behind on the ground, wall or fence. You will see why this causes many of the fights in prison. Men have died because they were unable to control their urge to expose themselves. Not a comfortable environment for women with exhibitionism rampant. The prevalence of this makes it impossible to get female staff to do their jobs. They tend to expect each prisoner who calls them to be trying to expose themselves to them. Admittedly, some enjoy the attention. Most do not and it makes their job a horror. It is often the reason good, professional ladies develop a hatred of all prisoners.

This is an addictive expression of sexuality. Texas has passed a law that requires any prisoner who receives three or more disciplinary convictions for exposing themselves to register as sex offenders once they are released from prison. The reason for this is simple: These men find they have developed an uncontrollable compulsion. This fetish has gotten men sent back to prison. In one case he exposed himself to his parole officer on his first visit to her office. Unbelievable, isn’t it? How many rapes were due to this psychosis mutating?

When you have people who are never getting out of prison they may turn to homosexuality when their need for affection becomes too strong to be denied. Some of these may be homosexual or bisexual to begin with but more often they are what I call “situational homosexuals.” A relationship with their own gender would never have been considered if not for being incarcerated. Once they enter this lifestyle they are forever changed. Mankind has adapted to his environment for many generations and this is nothing more, except another form of adaptation. All humanity needs someone to love and care for. Once a prisoner has accepted his situation it seems quite sensible that he adapt in this way. In these relationships the only coercion is the same exchange of gifts and dating seen in free-world courting rituals. Relationships of this type are long-lasting and, when one is released, can transcend the prison walls. In many ways these are the healthiest relationships in prison. Partners, in a hostile environment, who give each other emotional support where needed. In a violent world having one person you can depend on to never desert you is a major incentive to take such a lover. These relationships are far deeper than physical sexual release. There is a binding of the spirit which gives them unrivaled support to survive prison life. With this closeness of heart they defend each other unto death. Few marriages in the free world share the same level of trust. This may seem strange; but, if you think about it, maybe not. What is a marriage? A decision by two consenting adults to share all they have, good and bad, and protect each other. So too is this.

Prison officials aid in coercing individuals into positions of sexual servitude by their apathy. Many times prison supervisors are aware of someone being extorted, or threatened, and do nothing. Administrators are well acquainted with the danger of sending an effeminate prisoner to medium or close custody. It is not unusual for these to be forced into submission. Any young, pretty boy is in great danger. They have been known to use this as a threat to force prisoners to work as informants. To see young prisoners inform officials of their problems only to be told “get a man” if they can’t protect themselves is heart-rending. These young, pretty, and effeminate prisoners are even placed in cells with known rapists. It is common practice to ignore a young man’s pleas until he is enmeshed in “The Game,” as we call the homosexual life. These kids do not realize how badly their rights have been violated. If they do come to see they have been wronged they are so shamed that they would rather live with it than to admit what has happened. Who would ever understand? Who would care?

This is also a way to control the harder, more dangerous, elements in a prison. By putting young, weak, effeminate men in with rougher individuals they focus the attention of the dangerous criminals on acquiring sexual servants to make their time more bearable. Predators know to avoid violence and use more verbal and psychological abuse to force their prey into service. The shame of these young men will become a binding chain. Who can he tell once he has been so used? He is forever alienated from other prisoners who consider him weak. No one will help him. He is alone. Some have gone so far as to take their own lives, unable to accept their fall from grace.

The Texas system is guilty of gross negligence and deliberately indifference to the safety of all prisoners and especially those young and effeminate prisoners that federal law designates prey. Why do these officials choose to do this? One of the main reasons is they have no fear of facing the court system. If a prisoner brings charges, or a lawsuit, theyare defended by the Law Enforcement Defense Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. They don’t even have to hire an attorney. If they are assessed damages in a civil case they do not even have to pay it. The state pays it for them. They seldom lose their jobs unless they are convicted of a felony, which is nearly impossible. Worst of all is the bias a prisoner has to overcome for a jury to consider their testimony equally with an officer’s. Though most officers are good, hard working citizens, some are not. Guards do a dirty job few want and all know is necessary. This does not place them above the law. Prisoners are required to be their own counsel in civil lawsuits. How many are capable of that? It is like forcing high school teams to play in the major leagues. It’s just not fair.

Many prisoners express their sexuality through writing sexually explicit letters to girlfriends and wives. These ladies often send nude photographs to their incarcerated lovers. There can be no more of this. It has been found necessary by the Texas House to put a stop to this terrible activity. As of June 2, 2004, such letters and pictures are contraband. No frontal nudity will be allowed in pictures. They have generously given us till June 2005 to let pornographic magazine subscriptions run out before making their possession against the rules. Many of us wonder what new expressions of sexuality will now be in vogue. It is sure they will not abstain from sex. This was a private, safe release for the sexual tensions that build behind the walls. Nobody ever caught a disease from a nude picture or sexy letter and we know masturbation is the safest, healthiest form of sex available to prisoners in most prisons. Why would TDCJ decide to add censorship to this already extremely regimented environment? It can only add to the tension and create new levels of stress to an environment rife with sexual tension.

The greatest danger I ever faced in my twelve years of prison was due to sexual stress and the tensions it caused. A Hispanic from Columbia had decided he wanted a relationship with me. His inability to speak English well forced him to juvenile expressions of his wishes. My being unreceptive a his advances made him try harder. It has been my rule of thumb that anything not worth killing or dying over is not worth fighting over. His actions began to push nearer that line. Then one morning as we were going to work in the Garment Factory he hit me on the back. It wasn’t meant badly. The problem was that things were getting out of control. Where would he next decide to touch me? To stop this before it led to violence I cussed him and tried to make him back off before the violence was unavoidable. In the way of such things, I watched him for awhile and decided he was not going to carry it further. It was time for me to go work at my sewing machine so I did. As I sat working, my head felt as if it had caught fire. He had snuck up behind me and hit me with a push-broom head. He hit me a second time as I was getting to my feet. Blood flew from a cut in my scalp as I turned to meet this threat. He had that broom head drawn back to finish me off. A snap kick put him down and he dropped the broom head. In bending to pick it up I nearly blacked out. The fight went on as his supervisor and the security officer, both big Hispanic men, kept yelling to stop. He finally broke and ran. What new weapon might he find now that I had possession of the broom head he had brought to the fight? It was up to me to see he didn’t get to anything else. The officers were making no move to do a thing to stop this. In the end, I was sitting on him with the broom head pulled back to hit him when a Cuban friend of his snatched it away. Only then did the officers break up the fight. I later learned that his supervisor had talked to him as he stood behind me and left him to do as he pleased with the broom he had already taken apart. For this I asked that the disciplinary case against me be reduced. We had both gotten the same charge of fighting with possession of a weapon and got the same punishment. He refused to come out of solitary and I am on his list of enemies till this day.

That was September 1996. On my release I went for the first time to medium custody. Because they refused to treat me fairly, I filed a lawsuit against the officers involved, Mr. Cano, his supervisor, was married to the Head of Classification. The attacks went on, and in the end I was attacked physically by officers. With two counts of staff assault I should have gone straight to administrative segregation. Instead she saw I went to close custody and was placed on a section where forty of the forty-eight prisoners were black. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. My first cell partner was a Rolling Sixty Crip. Not good. They do not fight alone. It is their rule that if one fights they all fight. Jojo’s last cell partner had been half-killed. Sexual tensions were in the air; but, he was one of the ones best avoided. He wanted the sex and refused to admit that. His excuse to make it look right would be to make me a slave. That is across the line. Though I gave in to sexual advances in the hope of avoiding the conflict, it didn’t work. All that saved me the fate of his last cellie was a friend who told them if they jumped me he would fight at my side. What was strange was Norman being black. That doesn’t happen in Texas. A good friend. The other thing which saved me was that they No one in Texas expects a “queer” to fight. That first fight was over quick and at the desk the sergeant offered me a chance to get no case. It was another chance to get killed. No thank you. I’ll take the case. I did and while in lock up, filed papers to keep from going back to that section. Still all my cell mates were black gang members who had problems with whites in the last six months. Thankfully, Ms. Cano didn’t know the difference between the two types of Crips. Most were Five-Deuce Hoovas after that and I had friends in that family.

This was not the only time I made a choice to have sex to try to avoid a fight. Not out of fear so much as common sense. I’m a white non-gang member. Not a big man. Being I was bisexual in the world before I was incarcerated, sex, which I have a tendency to enjoy, is a cheap price to stay out of fights I can’t win. My only limit is being owned. Never will I allow myself to be property. For that freedom I am willing to die or kill. My intelligence let me dodge situations that were likely to lead to violence. Was the coercion brought against me rape? Yes. It was a rape of my psyche. It forced me to have sexual encounters I might have otherwise refused. In the end, sex changed my thirty-five-year sentence to a death sentence. In September 2000, I was diagnosed HIV-positive. Since I came to prison in February, 1992, and was checked for HIV in 1994. It is no doubt that I caught this in Texas prison. The only thing we will never know is whether it was caught in one of the bloody fights, from the coerced sex or from the sex I had for my pleasure. Either way the end result is the same.

Living in a modern society we can’t disregard the many virulent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). In the close confines of prison it is criminal negligence, on the part of Texas officials, not to recognize the need, and implement plans, for the containment of STDs. Texas does not even test all incoming prisoners for HIV or hepatitis. Prisoners are only tested if they request testing. A fair estimate would be 20 to 50 percent of the Texas prison population being infected with HIV and may even be higher for hepatitis. This is based on my knowledge of the numbers on medication for HIV who are continuing sexual relations. Most of those on medication are the effeminate catchers. They are more likely to be tested because they admit their sexuality. Whatever the percentage, it’s surely higher than the system admits, or wants to know about. It will be higher than outside prison and the spread of this infection must be ended. All prisoners need to be tested and those infected placed in quarantine. Condoms must be made available to all prisoners to assure safe sex practices are possible.

If you think quarantines and mandatory testing infringe on a prisoner’s rights, I agree. It is a choice between violating the rights of the infected prisoners, in an attempt to protect the healthy, or to let this blood born,pathogen continue to infect the unwary. As one who is infected due to my right to safe living conditions being denied, I have every right to make this suggestion. It is the only hope of containing this deadly disease. Most prisoners will return to their families. How many will carry this killer home undetected?

Since I’m not considered promiscuous by prison standards, and may have infected ten or more people, you will see how dangerous it is. All of these were not sexual encounters. Prison is a violent place and bloody fights are more dangerous than sex. Very few prisoners are being checked and many of those are coming up positive. Most don’t want to know. Others who know go into denial and continue to spread the disease. Some do so as revenge for being forced into the lifestyle that has brought them to this ending.

The Texas prison system does not want to know the full extent of this infection of the prison population. If they know they are required to provide treatment. With an average of 140,000 prisoners, if only 20 percent were found infected with either HIV or hepatitis the cost of their treatment would be exorbitant. For a short time in the mid to late l990s, Texas tested for hepatitis. The results were printed in the prison newspaper, The Echo. It was over 40 percent positive for hepatitis and they quickly discontinued this short-lived program. It is admittedly a hard decision to make. From my perspective those who are healthy’s right to safe living conditions have to take precedence over the rights of those infected prisoners to confidentiality.

A few suggestions:
1. Test all prisoners entering Texas prison and upon discharge.
2. Conjugal visits with spouses or other partners.
3. Remove all opposite-gender employees from staff.
4. End censorship of letters and magazines for sexual content.
5. Provide condoms to all prisoners on request.
6. Separate gang members from non-gang members.
7. Allow prisoners more freedom in the choice of cell partners.
8. Classify prisoners by age, sentence length, and type-crime and house them appropriately together.
9. Make the administration personally responsible for all decisions concerning classification by implementing external policing agencies.

With America exporting her views on penology as part of her foreign policy it is more important than ever that all prisons, whether in America or elsewhere, operated by Americans be as humane as possible. The time has come to make prisons into civilized places of incarceration where rehabilitation is the goal and prisoners are changed for the better while being punished for their crimes. This could be a start.