JDI IN THE NEWS - 2012

Juvenile Inmates Found to Be at No Greater Risk for Prison Rape

By Erica Goode, The New York Times
May 16, 2013

Youth advocates have long argued that juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons and jails are at heightened risk for rape and other forms of sexual abuse because of their age. But a government survey released on Thursday found that juveniles did not report significantly more sexual victimization than adult inmates.

The survey, which also examined sexual victimization among adult inmates, offers the first national estimates of the prevalence of sexual abuse among juveniles housed in adult facilities. The report’s authors said they believe the findings “are far more reliable and representative of the experiences of such youth nationwide than the anecdotal data from the past.”

But advocacy groups immediately contested the numbers in the survey, arguing that many juveniles housed with adults are afraid to report sexual abuse and that the true figures are likely to be far higher.

The survey, conducted from February 2011 to May 2012, was the third carried out under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, which charged the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an arm of the Justice Department, with collecting data on sexual victimization in prisons and jails. It found that sexual abuse remains a significant problem. An estimated 4 percent -- or 57,900 -- of the 1.5 million adult inmates in state and federal prisons nationwide experienced some form of sexual victimization within 12 months of arriving, according to the report, either carried out by another inmate or a staff member. Among the nation’s 726,000 jail inmates, 3.2 percent -- or 22,700 -- were the victims of some form of sexual abuse within a year of admission.

The rates of sexual victimization varied sharply from institution to institution, and were highest among inmates who suffered from mental illness, gay and lesbian inmates, and inmates who had been raped or otherwise sexually abused before their incarceration, the survey found.

“It’s very clear that sexual abuse in detention remains a nationwide crisis,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, an organization that works to end sexual abuse in detention facilities.

But, she said, the wide disparity in rates among institutions “speaks clearly to the fact that it is possible to run a safe prison, and it’s an important counterpoint to pop culture portrayals of prisoner rape, which often portray this type of violence as if it were inevitable and comes in the tap water.”

The Justice Department issued new detention standards last year aimed at detecting and preventing sexual abuse; those standards take effect in August.

The report based its weighted estimates on self-administered computer-assisted interviews with a random sample of more than 90,000 inmates in jails, state and federal prisons, and centers operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the military and American Indian authorities. Twenty jails refused to participate in the survey.

Allen Beck, a senior statistical adviser at the justice statistics bureau and the lead author of the report, said extensive precautions were taken to preserve confidentiality for inmates who participated in the survey and to ensure that the reports were as reliable as possible.

The survey found that among 16- and 17-year-old inmates housed in adult prisons and jails, 4.7 percent reported some form of sexual abuse. Of those, a majority said they had been victimized more than once, and 78.6 percent of those sexually abused by other inmates reported the use of physical force, as did 43.7 percent of inmates abused by staff members. While the figures for juveniles are slightly higher than those for adults, the difference is not statistically significant, the report found.

But Liz Ryan, president and chief executive of the Campaign for Youth Justice, a group that aims to keep minors out of the adult criminal justice system, said, “We think that this study is inconsistent with previous studies that have been done on this topic.”

The survey found that some institutions had rates of sexual abuse far higher than the national average, singling out by name 21 prisons and local jails, 2 military facilities, a detention center operated by the immigration enforcement agency and a jail on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Included among the jails were the Rose M. Singer Center, on Rikers Island in New York City, with a rate of 5 percent for sexual abuse by other inmates and 5.9 percent for sexual misconduct by staff, and the Baltimore City Detention Center, with a rate of 6.7 percent for sexual misconduct by staff.

Last month, federal authorities issued an indictment against the Baltimore jail, accusing corrections officers of having sex with prisoners and colluding with members of a gang known as the Black Guerrilla Family to smuggle drugs and cellphones.

Two military detention centers, the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Washington State and the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in California, were also identified as having high rates of reported sexual abuse, as was the Oglala Sioux Tribal Offenders Facility, where 10.8 percent of inmates reported having been victims of sexual misconduct by staff, the highest rate among all the jails and prisons surveyed.

Original post:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/us/juvenile-inmates-found-to-be-at-no-greater-risk-for-prison-rape.html?_r=0