Why This Viral Jared Fogle Meme Is Actually Not Funny

August 28th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Jared Fogle, the former spokesperson of Subway, has been accused of reprehensible crimes. He has admitted to having engaged in commercial sex acts with at least two minors; and evidence obtained by federal investigators also suggests that Fogle is guilty of distributing and possessing child pornography.

In a wave of anger and revulsion directed at the disgraced franchise pitchman, many have taken solace in thinking about (and subsequently posting about on social media) what might happen to the so-called "Subway Guy" when he is eventually incarcerated. Here's an example. 

Jared Fogle

"Don't worry Jared," the text reads, superimposed over a photo of the 37-year-old holding children's menu items found at Subway, "you'll be getting all of the footlongs you want in prison."

If you laughed, you're certainly not alone. But that doesn't make it okay. 

As Pres. Obama said at an NAACP convention in July, decrying the prevalence of prison rape jokes: "We should not be tolerating overcrowding in prison, we should not be tolerating gang activity in prison, we should not be tolerating rape in prison—and we shouldn’t be making jokes about it in our popular culture. That’s no joke. These things are unacceptable."

There is nothing funny about prison rape jokes. No matter the severity of the crimes that inmates might have committed, it does not serve the public interest to laugh about the troubling reality of sexual assault in American prisons. In fact, it does not serve any legitimate function—except, perhaps, for those who take satisfaction in the suffering of people who have already been sentenced to time behind bars. 

According to Human Rights Watch, one in 20 U.S. prisoners are sexually assaulted, often brutally and repeatedly. In 2011, correctional administrators reported more than 8,700 allegations of sexual victimization, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, up 39 percent from the previous year. "In 2011-2012, an estimated four percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the preceding 12 months or since admission to the facility," the National Institute of Justice reported

Though the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 aimed to rid correctional institutions of sexual abuse by providing federal and state agencies with "information, resources, recommendations, and funding to protect individuals from prison rape information," it has not achieved its ultimate goals. Prison rape is still a serious problem

Among the country's prison population, people who commit crimes that Jared Fogle stands accused of—namely the rape and exploitation of minors—are regarded with particular disgust. They are known as "chomos," short for child molesters, and even convicted murderers tend to be treated as people of moral decency compared to the likes of Fogle. 

In a recent interview with Vice, a former convict who served two years at the Federal Correctional Institute in Forrest City, Arkansas, said that child molesters "have minimal rights in federal prison." Other inmates would also likely prevent him from engaging in forms of recreation or socialization.

"They give [chomos] a very small amount of space on the recreation yard or in the chow hall, they're not allowed to go in certain areas or be around certain functions," the unnamed source added. "And given the high-profile nature of this case, I'm sure [Fogle's] not going to even have the opportunity to leave his cell or cubicle without being harassed and threatened. His best bet is to do his time in segregation where no one can get to him."

None of this is to defend Fogle's actions, of course. But the punishment of prison appears to be the best option for a country that upholds the human rights of inmates, who we excuse from cruel and unusual punishment as a matter of constitutional law. If the punishment does not seem to fit the crime (and for many, 12 and 1/2 years behind bar does not fit that criterion), then our response should be driven by advocacy—not pettiness.