E-NEWS - 2009

Youth in Detention: Targets of Sexual Abuse

August 18, 2009 -

With the release in June of national standards addressing prisoner rape, this form of abuse has received unprecedented attention - from government officials and journalists alike. Much of the discussion has focused on adult prisons and jails, which hold the vast majority of U.S. inmates. In the meantime, however, juvenile detention centers remain plagued by sexual violence - and largely hidden from public view.

Rather than receiving the special protections they need, youth behind bars are exceptionally likely to be subjected to rape and other forms of abuse, often by the very corrections officials whose job it is to keep detainees safe.

Sexual abuse scandals have rocked various youth detention systems in recent years, including the now notorious Texas Youth Commission (TYC) where for many years incarcerated juveniles were subjected to systemic abuses at the hands of corrections officials and detainees alike. Recent studies from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) confirm that incarcerated youth are especially vulnerable to abuse. A pre-test of the first-ever nationwide BJS survey of juvenile detainees found that a shocking one in five youth reported being sexually abused in the previous year. (The full survey is due to be released in December 2009.)

JDI is committed to ending the sexual abuse of youth by working directly with detention systems. This week, JDI is wrapping up a series of staff training sessions at all of the California Division of Juvenile Justice's facilities. Officials have learned about the dynamics and impact of sexual violence in detention, and about how to respond to abuse without further traumatizing survivors. Meanwhile, in collaboration with the TYC, JDI has helped revise the training curriculum for Texas juvenile detention staff and is preparing to do a comprehensive review of TYC policies.

To learn more about the sexual violence of juvenile detainees, please go to JDI's Fact Sheet, Incarcerated Youth at Extreme Risk of Sexual Abuse.

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