Justice Department to Hold Hearings on Sexual Abuse in Youth Detention
- May 16, 2022
Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., May 16 2022 — Starting tomorrow, the Department of Justice’s Review Panel on Prison Rape will hold public hearings to question youth detention officials about their efforts to address sexual abuse in their facilities. The Panel has summoned agency leaders who run facilities with some the highest and lowest rates of this abuse, with the aim of highlighting the practices that are effective in keeping kids safe. The two-day hearings, which are required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), mark the first time the Panel has convened in seven years — and its first hearing on youth detention facilities since 2010.
“It is an undeniable fact that sexual abuse in youth detention facilities is completely preventable,” said Linda McFarlane, Executive Director of Just Detention International. “Government studies have shown again and again that some facilities have appallingly high rates of sexual abuse, while others appear to have virtually eliminated it. The point of the Review Panel hearings is to explore what staff are doing differently in dangerous and safe facilities — to show that it’s possible to create a climate where staff are held to account and children in custody don’t have to live in fear of being abused.”
The officials who are slated to testify represent facilities that were singled out in the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) Sexual Victimization Reported By Youth In Juvenile Facilities, 2018. That report, which is based on direct surveys with kids in youth detention facilities, found that 7.1 percent of those youth reported being sexually abused at their facility in the previous year. While no amount of abuse is acceptable, that figure has declined sharply since 2012, when 9.5 percent of youth reported sexual victimization — a positive trend that can be attributed in large part to officials’ efforts to comply with federal standards to prevent and respond to sexual abuse. The Review Panel hearings will provide an opportunity to dig deeper into the impact of these standards — and probe why some youth detention facilities are continuing to fail so badly at something as basic as keeping children in their care safe.
On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the Panel will focus on high-incidence youth detention facilities, with testimony from officials representing facilities that the BJS ranked as among the most dangerous in the nation:
- Gulf Academy (FL), where 21.2 percent of youth reported sexual abuse
- Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility (OR), where 14.3 percent of youth reported sexual abuse
- Juvenile Corrections Center – St. Anthony (ID), where 12.9 of youth reported sexual abuse
The following day, the Panel will focus on low-incidence facilities, with testimony from officials representing facilities where the BJS found that no youth reported sexual abuse:
- The Garza County Regional Juvenile Center (TX)
- W.E. Sears Youth Center (MO)
The hearings will take place at Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Main Conference Room, Third Floor, 810 Seventh Street NW, in Washington, DC.
The agendas for the hearings can be viewed here.
Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention.