This week, the U.S.Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a study onsexual victimization of youth (ages 16 and 17) in adult prisons and jails, and inmates with mental health disorders.
The study showed that overall rates of sexual victimization for youth in adult prisons (4.5%) and jails (4.7%) were higher than those for adults (4.0% in prisons, 3.2% in jails). The study concluded that youth did not have significantly higher rates of sexual victimization than adult inmates which is inconsistent with previous studies conducted by researchers in the field in relation to both adult facilities and juvenile facilities.
In 2011-2012 BJS conducted interviews and surveys with 537 youth in prison and 1211 youth in local jails to determine the prevalence of sexual victimization. Here is what they found:
Youth ages 16 and 17 who reported sexual victimization by other inmates revealed that—
· Two-thirds were victimized more than once (65.5%)
· An estimated 78.6% reported experiencing physical force or threat of force, and 39.8% were pressured by the perpetrator to engage in the sexual act or other sexual contact.
· More than a quarter (27.7%) were injured in at least one of the incidents.
· Fewer than 1 in 6 (15.4%) reported an incident to someone at the facility, a family member, or a friend.
Youth ages 16 to 17 who reported experiencing staff sexual misconduct revealed that—
· Three-quarters (75.8%) were victimized more than once.
· An estimated 43.7% said that staff used force or threat of force.
· An estimated 10.8% were injured in at least one of the incidents.
· Fewer than 1 in 10 (9.0%) reported the staff sexual misconduct to someone at the facility, a family member, or a friend.
While the BJS report is the latest report to study the issue of youth sexual victimization in the adult setting, there are legitimate concerns with the conclusions. “This study tells us that youth face sexual victimization in adult institutions, but due to underreporting by youth in challenging adult facility conditions, we need more research to know more about this problem. Previous studies and the experiences of young people in the adult criminal justice system document that youth are at greatest risk of sexual victimization in adult jails and prisons,” says Liz Ryan, President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). “The report underscores the urgency for U.S. Attorney General Holder and the nation’s governors to redouble their efforts to fully implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s (PREA) Youthful Inmate Standard by removing youth under 18 from adult jails and prisons.”