Posted by: Ophelia | April 19, 2008

“We are stunned”

Inmates as sex slaves? It’s more likely than you think.

Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess resigned Wednesday just as state prosecutors filed 35 felony charges against him, including 14 counts of second-degree rape, seven counts of forcible oral sodomy and five counts of bribery by a public official.

A federal lawsuit filed in October claims Burgess told one drug court participant he would have her sent to prison if she didn’t comply with his sexual demands.

The lawsuit, filed by 12 former inmates, alleges the sheriff’s employees had them engage in wet T-shirt contests and offered cigarettes to those who would flash their breasts.

One prisoner alleged she became a jail trusty with more freedom after agreeing to perform a sex act on Burgess, but lost that status when she later refused.

Mixing the dehumanization of prisoners with the patriarchy makes for some potent bullshit. It’s funny how they’re stunned when just a page back you see the same allegations coming from female inmates at juvenile detention facilities.

Maybe if they keep acting shocked, they’ll never have to acknowledge the problematic power differential of guards having both state granted power over prisoners and male guards maintaining their socially granted sexual power through the exploitation of powerless female inmates. Of course it’s totally okay so long as they say yes right? Because wanting additional power or freedom in a prison environment isn’t a source of coercion at all.

We are shocked.



  1. As if the Stanford Prison Experiment wasn’t enough to show how putting people in positions of power over other people fucks up psyches – both of prisoners and guards, the abuse of others and power actually had to happen.

    But then again… I’m hardly surprised that sex and humiliation and a power hierarchy weren’t linked sooner in US prisons. After all, the pictures from Abu Ghraib were released years ago – who knows how long US military prisons abused prisoners and in how many other places. Torture has been sanctioned by our government – SANCTIONED – and the media is largely ignoring it. If torture of “enemy combatants” is ok, then getting some from prisoners in exchange for cigarettes has to be ok.

  2. You make a good point about the shock. I wasn’t really so surprised to read this…mostly because of your earlier post.

    And I have been thinking a lot lately about prison reform…I need to take some time to really develop those ideas.

  3. There is a This American Life that aired last year that really alerted me to just how messed up our prison system is. It is though we allow hellish things to happen to inmates and look the other way because we feel like that is part of their punishment. It is shameful. It will be interesting to watch as this story develops. Will the sheriff go to jail? Will the other rapists? Will the guards who let this sort of behavior slide be charged with anything? When will our system change?

  4. I can’t say that I’m too surprised to see people taking advantage of their power in the prison system to do some unethical things and to expect to get away with it. It’s horrible to see people dehumanizing others for anything they could possibly want. I might be prejudice against the south, but I can’t see any other stereotype than the southern white man doing this kind of thing. Mainly because no one else would normally expect to get away with so much.

  5. “If torture of ‘enemy combatants’ is ok, then getting some from prisoners in exchange for cigarettes has to be ok.”
    Like Pobre Habladora said, some people think it’s a fitting punishment for crime.
    Not only does the system need change, but people need to change the way they think about crime, punishment, and prevention.

    Sorry it took so long for your comment to appear Lindsay, it slipped through the moderation list without my notice.

  6. Thanks for an interesting entry. It isn’t just the prison system. This abuse takes place in our children’s schools. It takes place anywhere where power is unchecked. Check out my blog Wayouttaline.

  7. […] of Justice NoW I’ve briefly touched on the prison complex on at least two posts. I just wanted to point you to Feministing. They’ve been featuring a slew of Voices of […]

  8. Burgess is one sorry piece of work. This is just the tip of his Evil empire. Someone should ask about his ex-wife Becky and how she was treated. If he isn’t above this morally just imagine his potential for other corrupt and evil deeds. Like sending innocent people to prison setting up false lawsuits and vandalizing property like he did in high school. He didn’t do this alone he had others help him and they still help him. The community is corrupt and…….
    morally deficient like the sheriff they support. Burgess has been protected because his mother married into money. His rich step daddy is but hole buddies with the county comisar (comissioner) and various district attorneys and judges including the ones in power at this moment. There is a coverup in the works ask Rodeo Joe one of his so called business cronies. Why isn’t he being investigated for other crimes it is because his mama told her sugar daddy to pay Oklahoma Government and call in his favors. Burgess was one of the biggest cry babies in high school and would rat on anyone at the drop of a dime. Because he is a snitch is the very reason justice will not be served he has too much dirty on other public officials. Dont be surprised if he gets off and runs for sheriff again. The good Christians of this community will see to it that he gets back in. They are not above fixing elections.

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