Virginia juvenile centers cited in report on sex abuse, Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 8, 2010

Nearly one out of every three youths at 13 juvenile detention facilities in the U.S. have reported some type of sexual victimization, according to a government study issued yesterday. The facilities include one in Bon Air and one in Culpeper County.

The study found widespread reports of youth sex abuse at correctional centers.

The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice was shocked that it had two facilities on the list, spokesman Bruce Twyman said. In the past year, the department had increased training for staff and upgraded video surveillance to combat sexual abuse, he said.

"Were we surprised that we had two facilities in the top 13? Yes," Twyman said. He noted that some of the reported incidents were no more than allegations, "which investigation could conclude were unfounded."

But, Twyman said, "obviously there is a problem, and we want to do everything we can to eradicate it. One [assault] is too many." He said the study will be examined carefully and appropriate measures will be taken.

Claude Andrew Harris, a former high school principal at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, was convicted in April of having a months-long sexual relationship with a female inmate in 2007. The inmate was 17 at the time.

Nationwide, about 12 percent of youths held in state-run, privately run or local facilities reported some type of sexual victimization, the Justice Department found in the first report of its kind. The rates varied widely between facilities.

Victimization included forced sexual activity with another youth and all sexual activity with staff.

About 26,550 juveniles are held in such facilities around the country. The survey -- conducted forthe government by Westat, a company based in Rockville, Md. -- collected information from about 9,000 of them via anonymous computerized questionnaire.

The survey was conducted from June 2008 through April 2009 and asked whether the young inmates had been abused in the previous year of detention.

About 10 percent of youths surveyed reported abuse involving facility staff people, and nearly all of those complaints were against female staffers, who made up less than half of the workers. About 2 percent of the reported abuse involved other young inmates.

Although advocates said the level of abuse wasn't surprising, the prevalence of sexual abuse by staff, particularly female workers, was shocking, said Linda McFarlane, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, which fights to end sexual abuse of those who are detained.

The study identified six facilities where the survey found at least three out of every 10 inmates said they were sexually victimized while in custody. On that list is the Culpeper Juvenile Correctional Center, Long Term, in Mitchells.

The others: Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Pendleton, Ind.; Corsicana Residential Treatment Center in Corsicana, Texas; Backbone Mountain Youth Center in Swanton, Md.; Samarkand Youth Development Center in Eagle Springs, N.C.; and Cresson Secure Treatment Unit in Cresson, Pa.

At seven sites, about two out of every 10 inmates reported sexual abuse or victimization. On that list is the Bon Air center in Chesterfield County, with 25 percent reporting such incidents.

The others: Victory Field Correctional Academy in Vernon, Texas; Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility; Shawono Center in Grayling, Mich.; Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville, Tenn.; L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs, Okla.; and New Jersey Training School in Monroe Township, N.J.

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