When corrections officials make serious efforts to protect the safety of all inmates, they can greatly reduce sexual abuse behind bars. It is no mystery who the most vulnerable prisoners are. They tend to be young, unschooled in the ways of prison life, non-violent, small in stature or mentally ill. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) detainees -- or those who are perceived to be gay -- are also targets for abuse.
Basic measures, such as identifying likely victims and likely perpetrators and making sure that they are not placed in the same cell, can help spare thousands of inmates the devastation of sexual assault. JDI works to combat the systemic causes of prisoner rape, including the routine placement of vulnerable inmates in harm's way.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Detainees
LGBT detainees are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, and are therefore a programmatic focus for JDI. As part of this effort, JDI has developed a set of policy recommendations that, if fully implemented, would significantly decrease sexual violence against LGBT inmates. To date, more than 100 LGBT and allied organizations from across the U.S. and beyond have become signatories to the "Call for Change," creating a strong and diverse voice against sexual abuse in detention.
In a recent study funded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and conducted at six California men's prisons, a shocking 67 percent of non-heterosexual inmates reported that they had been sexually assaulted by another inmate during their incarceration; a rate 15 times higher than that of the general inmate population. A federal study of abuse in juvenile facilities found that kids who reported a non-heterosexual identity had been assaulted at twice the rate of youth detainees overall. Similar nationwide surveys of adult prisoners have found that gay and transgender inmates are, by far, the most likely to be raped.
JDI receives letters from LGBT prisoner rape survivors on a daily basis. Most of them have not only endured sexual abuse, but also the indifference, hostility, and homophobia of corrections staff who fail to take seriously their responsibility to keep inmates safe. One prisoner in a Texas state prison, when asking for protection, was told, "You're an admitted homosexual. You can't be raped. We're denying your request. Learn how to defend yourself."
For more information about JDI's LGBT work, including how your organization can join the Call for Change, please contact Senior Program Officer Derek Murray at email@example.com.
"We all have a right to be free from sexual violence and extreme sexual harassment. We are supposedly in these youth facilities to help rehabilitate us so we can be law-abiding adults. I affirm my humanity by being here and my right to have the [youth corrections officials] responsible for protecting me do their jobs, rather than severely abusing me and refusing to stop other wards' abuse." Cyryna, Hawaii
Youth in juvenile facilities are at extreme risk for sexual abuse. Young and scared, incarcerated children typically lack the prison savvy to protect themselves -- street smarts they shouldn't even need, as the mission of youth detention systems is rehabilitation [link to girls hearing testimony]. It may seem obvious that teen detainees should receive special protection. Instead, these kids are often placed deliberately in harm's way, or even worse, assaulted by the very corrections officials who are supposed to keep them safe.
At any given moment, more than 100,000 juveniles under the age of 18 are incarcerated in the U.S. Whether housed in adult facilities or with other youth, juvenile detainees are subjected to alarming levels of sexual abuse. Nationwide, a recent federal government survey found that an unconscionable 12.1 percent of juvenile inmates said they had been victimized at their current facility in the preceding year alone. In the worst places, one in three youths was abused. Alarmingly, even in substantiated cases of staff-on-youth sexual victimization most perpetrators suffer no legal consequences -- only 39 percent
are arrested and/or referred for prosecution. To make matters worse, in state-run juvenile facilities, one-quarter of confirmed staff perpetrators were able to keep their jobs.
JDI seeks to stimulate improved policies and practices in youth detention facilities, with an emphasis on the large and notoriously troubled juvenile detention systems in Texas and California -- the Texas Youth Commission and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Division of Juvenile Justice. California's Ventura Youth Center is a pilot site for JDI's partnership with the California state prisons and juvenile facilities for early implementation of national standards aimed at eliminating prisoner rape. JDI is also working with the Los Angeles County Probation Department to improve its juvenile facilities' policies and practices for addressing sexual abuse. JDI conducts staff training and youth workshops that raise awareness among detention officials
and detained youth about the problem of sexual violence and how to prevent and respond to it.
Legislatively, JDI advocated for the passage of California's Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act and of 2007 ("An Act relating to the Texas Youth Commission and the prosecution of certain offenses and delinquent conduct in the Texas Youth Commission and certain other criminal justice agencies; providing Penalties"), and now monitors each state's implementation of these vital laws. On the federal level, JDI supports reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and works with other organizations to exempt juveniles from the restrictions
of the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
To learn more about JDI's work to protect detained youth, please contact Linda McFarlane, Deputy Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I was raped by a fellow inmate while incarcerated in a jail in [my home country]. Tired of fighting intolerance and fearing for my life, I left the country. I never expected that I would suffer a similar fate in the United States." Esmeralda, California
The sexual abuse of immigration detainees constitutes a widespread yet largely hidden crisis. Immigration detainees -- whether held in facilities run by the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or in the many facilities contracted by ICE -- are especially unlikely to file a formal complaint in the aftermath of a sexual assault. While most prisoner rape survivors experience fear and shame, immigration detainees frequently face additional reasons to keep quiet, such as language barriers and the possibility of retaliatory deportation. JDI works in concert with other advocates to press for improved
oversight of immigration detention, including the codification of performance-based standards for detention facilities.
For more information about JDI's immigration advocacy work, please contact Deputy Executive Director Chris Daley at email@example.com.