POLITICS
06/06/2013 01:03 pm ET

DOJ Report Finds Sexual Abuse At Juvenile Detention Facilities Is Down, But Still Prevalent

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A new report (PDF) from the Bureau of Justice Statistics paints an unsettling picture of juvenile detention centers in the U.S.

According to the survey of minors incarcerated at both privately and publicly run facilities, 9.5 percent of the jailed kids reported that they had been sexually victimized in the previous 12 months. A little less than 8 percent were victimized by staff, the others by fellow inmates. Interestingly, the rate of staff sexual misconduct is nearly twice as high at state facilities (8.2 percent) as those that are privately or locally operated (4.5 percent).

If there's some good news in the report, it's that the overall victimization rate at state run facilities is down, from 12.9 percent in 2008-2009, to 9.9 percent in 2012. The worst states are Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina, which had victimization rates topping 15 percent. The best were Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia, which had no reported incidents at all. The report indicates that about 3.5 percent of inmates reported sexual contact with staff members that involved the use of force of coercion. That's still way too many, but that number is down too, from 4.7 percent in 2008-2009.

Any sexual contact between staff and inmates at a youth corrections facility is troubling. But forcible contact is most alarming. So it's worth throwing some shame on the worst offenders. The BJS survey found eight facilities in which more than one in 10 incarcerated youth reported that they had been forcibly sexually assaulted by a staff member in the previous 12 months. Birchwood in South Carolina led the way, with an appalling rate of 21.7 percent. Ponder that. If the survey is accurate, one in five kids at this facility reported being sexually assaulted by a staff member. (Statistically speaking, at a 95 percent confidence level, the rate of victimization at Birchwood is somewhere between 14.2 and 31.8 percent.)

The other centers topping 10 percent are Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio (15.2 percent), Illinois Youth Center (14.0 percent), Augusta Youth Development Campus in Georgia (13.6 percent), Eastman Youth Development Campus in Georgia (13.1 percent), Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio (13.0 percent), Corsicana Residential Treatment Center in Texas (10.5 percent), and Sumter Youth Development Campus in Georgia (10.3 percent).

It's good that these numbers are falling. But there's still a lot more work to be done.

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