I’ve talked before on this blog about the communities that are behind prison walls. Inmates at every facility have their own social hierarchies and create their own economy. Without inmate workers, the place couldn’t function. Everyone in the general population works full-time or goes to school. Then in the evenings, people will hang out at the recreation yard or watch a TV show or movie in the dayroom.
It’s not much of a life—and it’s all completely controlled and restricted, but inmates do try to make the most of what they have during their time on prison grounds.
When it comes to the social side of prison life, there are a lot of similarities to high school. There are the popular ones and the “losers,” and everything else in between. There are all kinds behind bars, just like in the free world.
Another similarity to the outside world is that social structures in prison are built on money and power. Inmates who have a lot of money (either through their own savings or deposits from family and friends) can use it to hire their own workers and bodyguards. If you are the head of a gang, you can make all kinds of things happen.
On the flip side, the inmates on the bottom tend to fall into three categories—snitches, rapists, and child molesters. Snitches are hated because they can’t be trusted and they don’t think twice about talking to the people (the prison guards).
Rapists are unpopular because men in prison have mothers, sisters, daughters, and nieces — and inmates don’t like when women are abused.
Finally, the child molesters are the lowest of the low. That’s what we will be talking about in today’s blog post—why do inmates especially hate child sex offenders?
In this post, I will cover the following topics:
Before I went to prison, I assumed like most people that all sex offenders were the same. If you were behind bars for a sex crime, you must be the scum of the Earth. In some cases, that assumption was exactly right. There are some seriously deranged people in prison who have committed sex crimes.
But to my surprise, there are people behind bars who are labeled sex offenders that aren’t what you think. Most notably, there are people doing time in prison who were 18 or 19 when they committed the crime of having sex with their 16 or 17-year-old significant other.
This is statutory rape, and I’m not saying it’s okay by any means, but I think it’s worth clarifying that a percentage of men in prison who are labeled sex offenders are doing time for basically having sex with their girlfriend.
In women’s prison, there aren’t nearly as many as sex offenders on camp, but we did have a handful who were sentenced to the state’s special sex offender program. There were a few who did terrible things that I’m not going to talk about in this blog post. And they deserved to be behind bars. However, there was one woman who I’ll call Jane that I didn’t think deserved to labeled a sex offender.
Jane was 35 when she went through her divorce. Venturing into the world of dating apps, she met a guy online who’s profile said he was 18. Of course, that’s quite the age difference, but she threw caution to the wind and decided to meet up in real life and hook up one time.
It turned out that the guy she met was actually 17, and he told his friends about the encounter. This information made it back to the guy’s parents, who proceeded to investigate who Jane was and have her prosecuted.
Weeks after this one night stand, Jane was arrested and charged with rape. She is now a sex offender for the rest of her life. This story has stuck with me for years, and I’ll never forget it.
As for the worst of the worst in the world of sex offenders, that title goes to child molesters.
Inmates who are doing time for sexually assaulting an adult are on the bottom of the social hierarchy in prison, but they’re not an outcast. That doesn’t happen unless you are a child sex offender. In fact, it’s so bad that most prisons segregate their child sex offender population from other inmates so they aren’t harmed or killed.
“[Child sex offenders] are at risk of being murdered, having their food taken, having their cells defecated and urinated in,” said Leslie Walker, a prisoner’s rights activist with the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Society. “Their life is truly a living hell.”
Most inmates have children or a younger sibling, niece, or nephew. And, many were sexually abused themselves as kids and never had the chance to fight back. This is why prison inmates don’t think twice about roughing up a child sex offender.
You might think that people who are behind bars have questionable morals, and in some cases you’d be right. So many have committed the crimes of stealing, murder, drug dealing, and assault. But that’s not in the same category as being as “cho mo.” Even prisoners know the difference.
Just like they say at the beginning of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, “sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous,” and prisoners know this just as much as prosecutors, judges, and jail guards.
“Once their crime has become known, they usually don’t make it without protective custody,” said Lt. Ken Lewis, a corrections officer and spokesman at California’s Los Angeles County State Prison, told ABC News.
“There’s a lot of [pedophiles] that can successfully make it … as long as they don’t brag about their offense. If they do talk, they’ll get beat up. In some places he may even get his throat cut.”
Are you surprised that prison inmates have such morals when it comes to child sex offenders? Let us know in the comments below.
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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