“Turned Out: Sexual Assault Behind Bars”

 Prison Sex

 Amos Lassen

 We hear so much about what goes on between men sexually when they go to prison and in “Turned Out”, we learn that it is estimated that about 20 percent of men in prisons in the United States have been raped. We also learn that it is the social system within American prisons that allows this to happen. Jonathan Schwartz, director of the film, has many stories to tell and unfortunately get lost in the wealth of material that he has. He gives us powerful, intimate and interwoven stories about rape in American prisons where one in five men has been sexually assaulted.

       Schwartz and his crew managed to gain access to the Alabama prison system and they spent time establishing friendships with the prisoners and gaining their confidence so that they could bring their stories to the screen. We get five stories of men who live in a world away from our world where economy and culture is based on intimidation and threat as well as affection and salvation. It is the story of institutionalized rape. We have always known that homosexuality is prevalent among prisoners—even for those men who are straight on the outside but we never get to see what really goes on behind bars. The “turning out” or sodomizing of prisoners is very, very common and we learn from narrator Danny Trejo that prison administrators turn a blind eye to it. Some even claim that it helps in keeping control.

The five stories are told with candor and the inmates we meet are completely calm as they discuss sex life in prison.

       We meet Mindy; a blonde is his 20’s. He tells us what happened when he walked into prison and was labeled as “fresh meat”. His protector, Lamark Moore who is serving twenty-five years for murder tells us that “Mindy was my baby…”. Another segment is about Mark and one of his pals who tell in all of the terrible detail how they “turned out” a new inmate and we see the sheer hell that prisoners face and how they change. Mark tells us that one the street he would never have been involved in male/male sex but it was prison that “turned him out”.

       Obviously the film had the intention of letting us what realty goes on behind bars but the film fails because of too many different plots and as we move from subject to subject, the film falls apart.

Otherwise there is a lot to be learned here. It is just too bad that the structure of the film is such a mess. What is so sad is that this could have been an excellent film and still can be with proper re-editing.

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