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Bureau of Justice Report on Sexual Violence in Juvenile Prisons

Since the Prison Rape Elimination Act was implemented in 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has accumulated statistical data on sexual activity in juvenile prisons in the U.S. A report issued in July 2008, by the DOJ, compiled information in the areas of youth-on-youth sexual violence and staff-on-youth sexual misconduct and harassment.

Data was accumulated from all state operated juvenile systems and the District of Columbia. The study also covered at least one private facility in each state. According to the report, private facilities fared better than state-run prisons. Figures indicate that the number of sexual misconduct allegations was five percentage points higher for state facilities than private prisons. All but three states – Montana, New Hampshire and Wyoming – reported at least one allegation in 2005 and 2006. During that same period one in 60 youths alleged being sexually victimized.

Just over one third of the allegations involved youth-on-youth nonconsensual sex. About one fifth involved youth-on-youth abusive sexual contact. Almost one third involved Staff sexual misconduct and eleven percent involved staff sexual harassment.
The report concluded that 732 of the reported allegations were substantiated. Of that number 432 involved youth-on-youth infractions and 295 involved staff-on-youth misconduct.

The study found that incidence of sexual violence in youth prisons is significantly higher than in adult prisons. However, the reasons for this may be that state laws are more punitive when it comes to sexual conduct with minors or it could be that cases against minors are investigated more thoroughly.

Just under two-thirds (64%) of the victims in juvenile prisons are male while about one-third (36%) are female. Over half (54%) of the victims were white; one-third (33%) black; and 11% were Hispanic. About half of the victims were between 16 and 17 years old.

Substantiated incidents of sexual violence in the youth-on-youth category tended to be overwhelmingly (73%) male. In the staff-on-youth category victims were evenly split at 49% male and 51% female.

The study also recorded such details as the most common places and times that infractions occurred. Just under one-third (32%) of the sexual abuses involved threats or force while a relatively equal amount (35%) participated voluntarily. About a third (34%) of the older victims had either been physically injured, restrained or threatened during the attack.
Only 10% of staff-on-youth sexual violence involved coercion or physical force. The largest staff-on-youth infraction was harassment (14%) followed by inappropriate touching (5%) and indecent exposure (2%). Fully two-thirds (66%) of the substantiated sexual encounters were described as “a romantic relationship.”

In the youth-on-youth category the most common perpetrators tended to be male (78%), over 15 (57%), and black (49%). Whites accounted for 40% of the remaining perpetrators with Hispanics following at 9%.

Of staff perpetrators 54% were males under thirty 63% with a racial breakdown of 44% black, 37% white and 19% Hispanic. Of female staff-on-youth sexual infractions 69% held supervisory positions.

The study showed that 12% of all the victims sustained some type of physical injury; 52% were given medical exams; 10% required a rape kit test and 65% were given counseling.
In an opening disclaimer the study states that it is in no way meant to be a ranking of best and worse juvenile prisons. However, in virtually every category substantiated, reported infractions seemed to be more favorably handled at privately run facilities than state facilities. And while the study proclaims 95% accuracy in its statistical analysis PLN points out that anomalies do exist.

Specifically, the report indicates that Texas’s Coke County Juvenile Justice Center which was run by Geo Group had no substantiated incidents of staff-on-youth sexual misconduct or harassment in 2006. The study also reports that of the 208 boys at the Coke prison no youth-on-youth sexual violence was even reported in 2005.

Yet the Geo-run Coke facility was shut down in early 2008 when inspectors discovered that the children were living in draconian conditions which included having so much feces on the floor that inspectors had to go outside and wipe off their shoes. All the while the unit was receiving glowing reports from Texas Youth Commission inspectors who were formerly employees of Geo.

Reports have also shown that Texas fails to collect much of the basic data on both its private and state-run prisons. So while the DOJ report makes a claim of 95% accuracy it should be remembered that the figure is only as accurate as the data collected.

Source: “Sexual Violence Reported by Juvenile Correctional Authorities, 2005-06” Bureau of Justice Report, July 2008

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