Widespread rape by staff indicates ‘fundamental failure’ of juvenile detention

AFP Photo / John Moore

AFP Photo / John Moore


The Justice Department survey, which polled group homes and jails for troubled youths, found that the teens were most often victimized by staff and counselors. A full 20 per cent of the respondents said they were assaulted more than 10 times. Over 8,500 boys and girls under 18 years old were questioned, with 1,720 reporting they had been assaulted.

Allen Beck, who authored the report, told Pro Publica the number of staff-on-inmate attacks was “about three times higher than what we find in the adult arena.” Psychologists and researchers working with sexual assault have long asserted that the number of victims who admit being abused is traditionally much lower than the true amount.

Today’s report illustrates the fundamental failure of many juvenile detention facilities to keep their youth safe,” said Louisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a California-based health and human rights organization.

She added that the survey results “show clearly that it is possible to protect young detainees from the devastation of sexual abuse,” but also unfortunately “make painfully clear that many youth facilities have a very, very long way to go.”

The report indicates that sexual assault happens most frequently in Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia and Illinois. No instances of abuse were reported in New York, Massachusetts or Delaware. The survey polled approximately one-third of all juvenile facilities in the United States.

Harvard University criminologists Dr. James Gilligan described the American prison system as a “sexual jungle” during an interview with ABC News earlier this year. Rape is a domination tactic that often lasts for years behind bars, with corrections officers groomed to look the other way.

While the predators – the more violent, powerful inmates – are in effect being given a bribe or a reward to cooperate with the prison authorities,” Gilligan said. “As long as they cooperate, the prison authorities will permit them to have their victims.”