Survivors will gather outside the Thompson Center to demand an end to the sexual violence of prison, detention centers, and all forms of incarceration
In Chicago on Friday, October 19th, at 1:00 p.m., Monica Cosby, Chicago organizer who survived 20 years of incarceration, along with other survivors of incarceration and sexual violence, will gather with co-sponsoring organizations outside the Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph, Chicago), which houses the Chicago offices of the Illinois Department of Corrections. They will demand the release of prisoners, arguing that incarceration relies fundamentally on the threat and the reality of sexual violence to enforce order and to disconnect prisoners from loved ones.
The rally comes at a time that separate lawsuits have been filed against staff at Logan Correctional Center, as well as charges against staff at Lackawanna County Prison in Pennsylvania, widespread reports of sexual abuse at migrant detention centers; and as currently and formerly incarcerated women around the country continue to raise their voices to connect with #MeToo as a liberatory movement.
According to a recent Bureau of Justice (BJS) report, which covers local and Indian country jails; federal, state and private prisons; military lockup; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, 58% of prisoner reports of sexual violence are made against staff. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed in 2003, but standards for reporting were not issued until 2012. Between 2012 and 2015, reports of sexual violence increased by 180% to 24,661. But, according to a 2013 BJS anonymous survey, over 200,000 prisoners are sexaully abused annually, and 1 in 3 transgender prisoners report sexual violence.
Supporters of this Friday’s vigil also seek to educate a broader public about the way in which gender-based and sexual violence underlay the circumstances of women’s incarceration as well. Over 80% of all incarcerated women experienced domestic violence before being incarcerated, over 82% suffered childhood abuse, and over 86% are survivors of sexual violence. Approximately 72% of women in prison were trying to survive on a median annual income of $22,500, many as primary caregivers, prior to arrest. Once incarcerated, violence continues in the form of invasive searches, coercive sexual contact and assault by staff. Most imprisoned people return to community eventually, often under heightened circumstances of coercion given felony disenfranchisement and barriers to jobs, housing and healthcare.
Where: Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph, Chicago