It’s no secret that criminal justice reform and the role of the police in our society have become hotly-debated political topics in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. As a criminal justice reform activist, I am excited that American citizens are having this discussion.
One of the arguments I have heard regularly from those who support the police and the current justice system is the following: people who have done nothing wrong and those who don’t break the law don’t have to worry about troubling interactions with the cops or the threat of police brutality.
I also hear from people who support the current criminal justice system and police culture that people who are in prison deserve to be there, and somehow that justifies inhumane treatment.
There are individuals who never have an experience with the police and/or the criminal justice system and actually believe that everyone serving a prison sentence is a violent person who has committed a horrible crime. They also seem to believe that those who are in prison need to be segregated from society because they are a threat and deserve to be punished.
The majority of people who are in prison are serving time for non-violent offenses, and according to The Innocence Project as many as five percent of people behind bars are completely innocent of the crime they were convicted of.
Because prisons are filled with a mixed bag of offenders — ranging from people who are in for simple drug possession to those who have murdered numerous people — over the years, the people who are serving time have created a hierarchy among the prison population.
The crime one does time for contributes to his/her reputation, and that can affect how one is treated by other inmates behind bars. So, this leads us to today’s blog post: what criminals are the most hated in prison?
In this blog post I will cover the following topics:
- A prison yard is like a school yard
- Are sex offenders universally hated by other inmates?
- The most hated criminal in prison
A prison yard is like a school yard
Depending on the security level of a prison, an inmate can find themselves outside of their cell/room/cubicle for up to 12 hours a day. Inmates have jobs to perform that help the facility operate. They go to educational, vocational, and treatment classes, and they can also go to the rec yard for physical activity.
Because inmates regularly interact with each other, there is a community with a social structure and an economy. In some ways, it is very similar to high school because of all the cliques, the atmosphere, and inmate behavior.
A prison yard is like a school yard, meaning there are bullies as well as those who get picked on. If you can’t protect yourself, you have to hire someone to do it for you. But, depending on the crime you have committed, protection can be hard to come by.
Are sex offenders universally hated by other inmates?
I was in a women’s prison, so the dynamic with sex offenders was a little bit different than in the male prisons. But, I can answer this question for both types of facilities based on my own experience and from talking with former male inmates.
A similarity in both men and women’s prisons is that sex offenders are not universally hated. Contrary to popular belief, doing time for a sex crime doesn’t necessarily mean you will be hated or harmed by other inmates.
There are a few reasons for this. First off, not all sex crimes are the same. I know that might be crazy to hear, so let me explain. A 19-year-old can be charged with statutory rape if he or she has sexual relations with his or her 17-year-old significant other. An adult male or female can be charged with statutory rape if they have consensual relations with a minor who lied about their age and said they were 18 or older.
You would be surprised how often this happens and how often people get convicted of felonies and serve prison time because of it. Someone doing time for that type of sex crime is not going to automatically have a hard time with other inmates.
There is also a difference between sex crimes against adults as opposed to those against children. The “cho-mos” are the ones who are hated, and oftentimes, they are segregated from the rest of the population because they are at higher risk of violence.
Again, sex offenders — no matter who they are — aren’t going to win any popularity contests in prison. But, the inmates recognize the difference between the type of crime committed, and act accordingly.
Another reason why sex offenders aren’t universally hated is that, obviously, there are a lot of people in prison who sold drugs to kids, or shot at kids, or raped someone themselves. Protecting kids or punishing sex offenders isn’t really on their list of important things to do, and that’s just the honest truth.
“Convicts who have committed crimes against children, especially sexual abuse, are hated, harassed, and abused. Many inmates refer to molesters as “dirty” prisoners, and some insist that assaulting or killing them represents a service to society. But a convict’s crime plays only a small role in his social status and safety,” explains Brian Palmer in Slate Magazine. “Most jailhouse assaults happen because the victim violated prison norms, not because of the crime he committed on the outside. Those who steal tobacco, disrespect the members of an opposing gang, or snitch are in for a much rougher ride than the average molester.”
Another reason that sex offenders are not universally hated is because they are usually model inmates. They usually lay low, don’t bother anyone, and just serve their time. On the other hand, inmates who are always loud, starting fights, harassing guards or other inmates, or constantly bringing unnecessary attention to themselves will piss people off, and they will get taught really quick that they need to change how they are doing their time.
The most hated criminal in prison
By far — and without a doubt — the most hated criminals in prison are snitches. We’ve all heard the term “snitches get stitches,” and there is a reason why everyone has heard it — it’s the absolute truth.
No matter what you’re in for or what case you are associated with, if you are a snitch, you better watch your back. A gangbanger won’t think twice about inviting a sex offender to help take care of a snitch, and that is why sex offenders are not the most hated criminals in prison.
Sometimes, the DOC or BOP will go to great lengths to hide the identity of certain inmates if they snitched on someone in a case. They will transfer them to a far-off location, and book them under a different name and crime if they believe the snitch is in danger.
Are you surprised sex offenders aren’t the most hated criminals in prison? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Interviews with various inmates at WERDCC and SCC Are Child Molestors Really The Most Hated People In Prison? https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2011/11/jerry-sandusky-out-on-bail-are-child-molesters-tormented-in-american-prisons.html