Almost Prison

One of the worst things about prison these days isn't the bad food or the prison garb. It's the threat of homosexual assault. Here at Prison Fellowship we've counseled thousands of young men with heart-wrenching tales of humiliation and pain at the hands of other inmates. But what happens in prison can happen in any closed, all-male situation. Listen to the story told by Mr. Kevin McCrane in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal. McCrane was a young Navy recruit in the 1940s, sent down to Honolulu aboard a cargo carrier. The first night on ship, McCrane writes, "we unhooked our berths . . . and settled down to sleep." But sleep didn't last long. McCrane awoke suddenly to feel a hand caressing his leg. He lashed out with his fists, and a dim figure disappeared into the dark. Over the next few days, McCrane discovered that five of the petty officers on the carrier were aggressive homosexuals. They openly pursued the young recruits, cracking lewd jokes, patting and touching them, propositioning them, and even exposing themselves. The recruits registered their complaints with other officers but all they got was a laugh and a vague recommendation to "watch out" for themselves. The time was right after World War II, and discipline was lax. For protection, McCrane writes, the recruits took to huddling together at meals, at the movies, in the showers. But their precautions were not foolproof. Eventually some of the youngest recruits were sexually assaulted. There was nothing they could do: They were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They had no recourse. The cargo carrier was like a floating prison. Fortunately, this story ends well. When the carrier landed in Honolulu, a new executive officer reported aboard, who transferred out the petty officers who had made life miserable for the young recruits. Finally the sailors were able to sleep at night without fear. Of course, not all homosexuals are so aggressive. Many are fine soldiers, who would never dream of taking advantage of anyone. I don't think anyone wants to see men like these hounded. But human nature is fallen. And that means if you remove external restraints, the ugly side of our nature is more likely to surface. If the military loosens its restraints on homosexual behavior—especially if it removes the threat of discharge—then we can be certain the horror stories will increase. Even today, the official ban on homosexuals in the military isn't entirely effective. On Nightline recently a retired colonel and a former sailor both told about homosexual advances made to them or to their colleagues. It's one thing to argue abstractly about gay rights. It's another thing entirely to live in confined quarters with gay men who may be ready to take advantage of their rank. In a closed, all-male society, unrestrained homosexuality can wreak havoc. As McCrane said, the closest parallel is the prison system. Most people know about the problem of homosexual assault in prisons. Is this a threat we want hanging over the heads of men and women serving our country in the military?


Chuck Colson



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