It’s hard to have sympathy for Jared Fogle, Subway’s former ad man who was sentenced up to 50 years in prison for possession of child pornography and soliciting sex with a minor. Nonetheless, the public’s gleeful reaction to the recent news that Fogle was brutally beaten in a Colorado prison reveals society’s troubling attitude towards America’s inmates.
Since arriving at Englewood, People magazine reports that Jared Fogle has been a “constant target” for abuse, harassment, and now violence. On Wednesday, reports broke that Fogle was “beaten and bloodied” by a fellow inmate, 60-year-old Steven J. Nigg. Nigg’s nephew, Jimmy, told the Arizona Republic, “He could have killed him if he wanted to.”
These revelations have been greeted on the Internet with an unrestrained glee, both making light of the assault and seeming to encourage further attacks against the disgraced pitch man. Rapper Charlamagne Tha God told TMZ that Fogle should have been grateful the incident wasn’t worse. “I loved it,” he said. “That’s what happens with pedophiles go to jail: They get beaten up and sometimes they get raped. Unfortunately, he didn’t get raped.” The hip-hop artist added that it “should be a daily thing.” The response on Twitter was more of the same, with added jokes about Fogle’s weight gain.
It’s not just Nigg’s nephew and an amateur rapper that has chimed in on the matter. The mainstream outlet New York Daily News described Fogle’s beating as “jailhouse justice.”
I get it, Jared Fogle is a disgusting human being. For that, he will likely serve the rest of his life in prison. However, that apparently is not punishment enough for many in the public. They would rather condone the systemic violence of American prisons if it can serve “jailhouse justice” for one creepy inmate.
That is not a tradeoff I’m willing to make. The brutish environment of American prisons is exactly why nearly three-quarters of released inmates are re-arrested within five years. When prisoners are allowed to continue their criminal activities in the very institution that’s supposed to correct their behavior, it’s no wonder that they come out even more violent than before.
It’s hard to grasp how common prison violence is since the majority of it goes unreported. However, a few surveys give a glimpse at how bad life behind bars can be. Josh Voorhees reports in Slate:
In a 2012 survey, a full 4 percent of the nation’s prisoners and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported being sexually victimized in the previous 12 months, more than half of which said the alleged incident involved a prison guard or other staff member… a self-reported survey from 2004 found that 16 percent of state inmates said they had been injured in a fight since they began doing time.
Fogle may be particularly indefensible, but imagine the thousands of prisoners who are serving time for nonviolent crimes only to be brutally raped or beaten at the hands of their fellow inmates. Meanwhile, the guards paid to protect them ignore their cries and the public at large laughs at their pain.
This sick attitude of “jailhouse justice” is precisely why the “correction” part in America’s correctional facilities is such a joke. Until prisons in the U.S. can become a safer place for inmates to reflect on their crime and become a productive citizen, society at large will be no safer.