Kara Kenney, Study: 2 Ind. Prisons Among Highest For Sex Abuse, WRTV/TheIndyChannel.com, January 8, 2010

A new government report shows that two juvenile prisons in Indiana are among the worst in the county when it comes to incidents of sexual abuse.

The study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that 36 percent of inmates at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility reported being sexually abused, while 23 percent of inmates at the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility said they had been the victim of sexual abuse, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

The report, based on a survey given to 9,198 youth detainees in 195 facilities nationwide, includes inmates who said they were sexually abused by fellow inmates and staff members.

"These figures are unconscionable, and even more so when you consider that the survey did not include youth locked up in adult facilities, where many are at even greater risk for abuse," said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, which fights to end sexual abuse among inmates.

Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility Superintendent Linda Commons said she was surprised by the results of the study because inmates there report very few incidents of sexual abuse, and when they do, prison officials investigate.

"Am I naive enough to think we don't have staff here who would actually do these bad things? I'm not naive, I know they could," Commons said. "(But) having looked at the report, we have some issues as it relates to the questions as they were asked and the interpretations that were made on those."

She said one of the reasons the facility may rank as high as it does is because it houses inmates, often violent or sexual offenders, who've failed at other facilities.

Commons said the prison has numerous measures in place to encourage inmates to talk about abuse, including a box where inmates can privately submit concerns.

Some family members of inmates at the prison said they were shocked by the study's findings.

"I'm worried about him, I'm very concerned," said Linda Underwood, whose 15-year-old grandson is serving time. "I don't want my grandson in a place where he is going to be mistreated and abused."

Commons said the prison is considering improving the screening of inmates and adding more security cameras to ensure inmates are protected.

"Safety and security is our No. 1 issue," she said.

The Department of Correction is currently investigating a possible inappropriate relationship between a staff member and an inmate at the prison. Commons said four staff members have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Officials with the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility were not available to talk to 6News on Friday.

Octavious Tyler, a former correction officer at that facility was sentenced to 6 months in a program for engaging in sexual activity with an inmate in 2006.

The Department of Correction has called in the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force to take a closer look at the results of the sexual abuse study and develop a plan of action.

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