A Judge Just Threatened Rape "Every Day" in Prison

October 31st 2015

Alex Mierjeski

A New Mexico judge made headlines last week after telling a 20-year-old first-time offender that he would likely face sexual assault and domination by other inmates in prison, KOB Eyewitness News reported.

The judge's remarks provide an unsettling look at how loosely we discuss prison rape—even in a court of law—as a basic aspect of our criminal justice system.

"You would probably be raped every day, number one."

In this case, Isaiah Gay, who faced up to 15 years behind bars for burglarizing homes when he was 18, stood before the court and explained the robberies could be chalked up to impulsivity, testing the limits of adult freedom, and to being "young and dumb," according to court transcripts.

Judge Christina Argyres replied:

"Do you know what would happen...to a young and dumb person in prison? Do you have any idea what would happen to you?"

Gay said that he would "probably get beat up," but Argyres provided a more blunt answer.

"You would probably be raped every day, number one. You probably would be beat up every other day. And I hate to sound like that, you know, rude, but that's exactly what would happen to you. You're a young guy, and the trauma that that would cause, you'll never get that out of your head."

Judge Christina Argyres

RELATED: States Are Totally Ignoring This Sexual Assault Epidemic

In a bizarre side note, Argyres then compared burglary to rape, as if to suggest prison time—and the apparent likelihood of sexual assault on the inside—would be an obvious form of tit-for-tat retributive justice. "To me, the issue with residential burglary, again, it's almost like a rape because it is such an invasion and such an intrusion on somebody's life and their property," she said.

Argyres ultimately sentenced Gay to probation, but not before adding another description of what he would be spared from. In prison, she said, "he's going to be somebody's — I hate to use the word — 'bitch,' but that's exactly what he's going to be, and I don't want to destroy Mr. Gay's life."

We tell too many prison rape jokes.

The courtroom exchange sheds light on just how prevalent the idea of prison rape is, even for the gatekeepers of jails and prisons. Prison rape also tends to get tossed around as a comically dark fact of life for inmates in casual conversation, as ATTN: noted in the aftermath of former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle being charged for sex acts with minors and child pornography.

One viral meme that circulated after Fogle admitted to the charges depicted him holding one of the chain's foot-long sandwiches and a container of milk, with superimposed text reading: "Don't worry Jared, you'll be getting all of the footlongs you want in prison."

Jared Fogle

Four percent of federal and state inmates reported in 2012 that they were sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months.

Despite lawmakers' efforts to curb sexual assault and rape in prison, those hardships still remain a persistent problem, ATTN: reported in August. As one National Institute of Justice report reads, "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."

President Obama has also touched on the subject of trivializing prison rape, saying at a NAACP convention in July that "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."

Judge Argyres did not go so far as to quip about prison rape, but she did explain to Gay that, essentially, the ball was in his court.

"I'm willing to give you a chance," she said. "You blow it, it's on you, not me. Fair enough?"