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Old March 8th, 2015, 09:03 PM   #1
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Inmate Videos Aim to Reduce New York Prison Sexual Assaults

On his first day in a Michigan prison for robbing a photo store with a toy gun, 17-year-old T.J. Parsell was dragged into an empty cell and gang-raped.

Now the 54-year-old activist and filmmaker has created videos instructing newcomers to New York state prisons on how to protect themselves from sexual assault.

Similar videos have been produced since the passage of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, but Parsell says his are the first to look at the issue from the prisoners' perspective, with actual prisoners talking about how to prevent such attacks.

"I've always thought that if the men somehow take this issue on themselves and declare it's not going to happen, then it isn't going to happen," said Parsell, a film student at New York University who has spent much of his life since the attack working to prevent it from happening to others.

"Inmates are more apt to listen to other inmates than they are to staff," he said. "The primary intention with this video is to start influencing the culture within the prison."

The U.S. Department of Justice says at least 216,000 prisoners across the country were raped or sexually abused behind bars in 2011, and it cautions that the number is likely low because prison rapes are seldom reported.

Parsell made two videos, one for men and one for women. They are expected to be shown in New York state prisons as part of new inmate orientation once the state obtains final approval from the Justice Department, which financed the project as part of its PREA initiative. Because approval is pending, neither spokespeople for the state prisons nor the Justice Department would comment. It is not clear when, or if, the videos will be released.

But that doesn't mean they haven't already been seen.

Inmate Videos Aim to Reduce New York Prison Sexual Assaults - ABC News
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