By Alan Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch
June 6, 2013
Three Ohio correctional facilities are among the highest in the nation for rape and other sexual acts forcefully committed against juvenile offenders, according to report released today by the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility, with a sexual assault rate estimated at 30.3 percent, was second highest in the U.S. The Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility (23.2 percent), and Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility (19.8 percent), also were in the top 13 facilities with the highest rates, the report showed.
Nationally, 9.5 percent of youth incarcerated in state and private facilities reported being sexually victimized one or more times last year, concluded a survey required by the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. Assaults are defined as “unwanted sexual activity” involving either other youth or prison staff. The survey was conducted last year of 8,707 youth in 273 state-owned or -operated facilities and 53 facilities which were locally or privately operated.
Kim Parsell, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Youth Services, said the agency is "committed to providing safe, humane and appropriately secure environments for youth. We have zero tolerance for any type of sexual abuse, harassment or assault. All reports of sexual harassment or abuse are handled seriously and respectfully.”
The agency has more than 1,000 cameras in the agency’s four youth dentition facilities, she said. Further, staff members receive specialized training to guard against sexual misconduct. When appropriate, the agency seeks criminal prosecution of staff members for sexual misconduct. Youth who commit sexual misconduct are held accountable.
The Justice Department report said the majority of the sexual acts were committed by staff members as opposed to other youths, the report found. The report also categorized sexual activities between juvenile offenders and staff members that were unforced but still illegal and inappropriate.
The overall rate of victimization in state facilities nationwide dropped to 9.9 percent last year from 12.6 percent in 2008-09 when the last survey was done. The drop resulted from slightly lower rates of sexual assaults by prison staff members, both forced and without force, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Joining Ohio among the states with the most incidents were Georgia, Illinois, and South Carolina. The report said some facilities surveyed reported no sexual assaults.
Males were more than twice as likely as females to report sexual misconduct against them. Females were responsible for 90 percent of cases involving sexual assaults committed by staff.
Youth self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were victimized more often than heterosexual youth; those who had prior sexual assaults were seven times more likely to be re-assaulted. Injuries resulted in 18 percent of the overall youth-against-youth incidents.
Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a Los Angeles-based organization working to reduce prison rape of juveniles and adults, said the numbers show “many youth facilities have a very, very long way to go.”
“It’s deeply troubling that staff -- the very people charged with helping these young people turn their lives around â€“ are the primary perpetrators of sexual abuse,” she said.
To read the full report, click here.
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