The US department of Justice released a survey that suggests that about 20% of juvenile inmates experience sexual assault while doing time in juvenile detention centers and group homes. Colorlines reports:
“The survey covered by both secure juvenile detention facilities and group homes, and involved more than 8,500 boys and girls. In total, 1,720 of those surveyed reported being sexually assaulted, and some of them said that they had been violated on more than 10 occasions. There are currently roughly 70,000 young people in the country’s juvenile detention facility.”
These crimes are usually committed by adult staff who are responsible for the inmates during incarceration. According to Joaquin Sapien at ProRepublica:
“The report gives some insight into how staff members victimize the youngsters under their care and supervision. In the majority of cases, the survey found, staff members establish a personal relationship with the inmate first by sharing details of their personal lives, sharing pictures, or giving gifts. The report indicates that one instance of abuse usually leads to more. “
This explanation reveals how most sexual assaults (across age and gender lines) occur at the hands of those that we already know. It is even more disturbing to see that this is also the case within the walls of detention centers across the country. Young people are already at a greater risk of exploitation because they do not have all of the rights granted to adults, but this reminder that the criminal justice is a breeding ground of such injustice makes me sick.
I think it is also worth reminding folks that the criminal “justice” system in the US disproportionately targets and affects people of color, undocumented, and queer people. And so it goes that upon further inspection of the survey, it is obvious that black and “non-heterosexual” inmates reported higher rates of sexual assault from other youth and staff.
How does this help create a healthy environment in which to “rehabilitate” young people within the criminal justice system? While sexual assault might represent a strong deterrent from ever reemerging within that system, we are not releasing youth that have been well taken care of or treated. What are the implications of that for our future?