Friday, January 8, 2010

12% of Incarcerated Youth Raped

I'm a certified victim advocate and work with criminal justice clients, so feel somewhat qualified to comment on this subject. Crooks and Liars has a post up today discussing a report released yesterday by the Dept. of Justice stating that 12% of juveniles in custody in this country are raped or sexually abused by other inmates or staff.

My initial response upon reading this was shock. Not that 12% were reported to be sexually assaulted (and remember, there is no consensual sexual contact between juveniles and staff members or any adult for that matter), but that the number is so low. Considering that in the general population only 1 in 6 rapes (conservatively) are reported, and knowing what I do about the ability of inmates to report abuse, I would estimate that the number is significantly higher.

The report said,

"These figures are appalling," said Pat Nolan, president of Justice Fellowship, a group that advocates for prison reform. "We stripped a prisoner of their ability to defend themselves. They can't control where they go; they can't control whether the shower has a light bulb in it."


"Nearly seven years ago, Congress passed a law designed to reduce prison rape, establishing a commission to develop standards for state and federal prison leaders. Lawmakers said funding could be cut for prisons that failed to comply with the guidelines."

What is striking in this report, is that Congress passed legislation seven  years ago establishing this commission and linking correctional dollars to adherence to compliance with new guidelines--and this report comes out now. Guess who was in office when this legislation was passed? Guess who will get blamed for the results of this report? Our culture demands retribution rather than rehabilitation, then cuts funding to the correctional system. Our incarcerated juveniles and adults receive no services to speak of, guards are overworked and underpaid, and these blue-ribbon commissions take seven years to determine that juveniles are not safe in custody. Ya think?

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