Most prison violence occurs between inmates. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the rate of prisoner–prisoner assault in U.S. prisons is 28 attacks per 1,000 inmates. However, official statistics do not mirror the true amount of prisoner–prisoner violence. Despite a common theme of prisoner-on-prisoner violence existing between racial or ethnic gangs and others, the prison system is also driven by a prison social hierarchy. While most individuals within prison systems are guilty of heinous crimes, most commonly, sex offenders and child murderers are the lowest on the scale and are often victims of extreme violence.
Representing such a population at the bottom of the prison social hierarchy, Larry Nassar recently made headline news. Nassar, former United States of America Gymnastics doctor, has been in prison since he confessed guilty in 2017 to child pornography charges and multiple state sexual abuse charges against young athletes. Within the last twenty-four hours, Nassar was found stabbed and assaulted in the federal state prison in Florida, where he remains incarcerated. Correctional officers and responding staff immediately acted upon life-saving procedures, and Nassar was transported to a hospital for medical treatment.
Nassar was also sentenced in a Michigan state court to up to 175 years in prison after more than 150 women said on record that he sexually abused them. Nassar pleaded guilty and admitted using his medical position to assault and molest girls. Many of the women said they were ignored when they spoke up about the treatment. However, in 2021 victims of Nassar reached a $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Previous crimes partly determine a prisoner's place within a prison's social hierarchy. Since Nassar is guilty of sex offenses against young women and girls and is thus at the bottom of the hierarchy, he is susceptible to extreme violence in prison. Considered infamously intolerable for his acts, there should be no surprise that Nassar was a victim of violence within prison. Whether Nassar deserved such abuse is a matter of opinion. However, there is no denying a prison social hierarchy will continue to exist.
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