Pivotal Justice Department Hearings on Sexual Abuse on Detention
- January 8, 2014
On January 8-9, the Review Panel on Prison Rape will gather testimony from officials representing some of the country’s best- and worst-performing prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities.
Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., January 8, 2014 – The Review Panel on Prison Rape is holdings public hearings today and tomorrow on sexual abuse in detention. The panel, convened by the U.S. Department of Justice, will question officials from facilities with the highest and lowest rates of sexual abuse – shedding light on the problem of prisoner rape and best practices to stop it.
The hearings, which are required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, will examine the findings of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) two most recent reports on sexual abuse behind bars: surveys of inmates in adult prisons and jails, released in May 2013, and of youth held in juvenile detention facilities, released in June 2013. These studies made clear that sexual abuse remains rampant in many facilities, while others have all but eliminated this violence.
“The BJS research shows beyond a doubt that sexual abuse in detention is preventable,” said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International. “There are some facilities with appallingly high rates of sexual abuse. Yet many others are upholding their basic responsibility of keeping inmates safe. The Review Panel hearings will highlight the policies and practices that account for the dramatic differences between safe and dangerous facilities.”
Today, the panel will gather evidence on sexual abuse in state prisons and jails. The hearings will feature officials from three prisons and three jails found by the BJS to have exceptionally high rates of sexual abuse, and from two prisons and two jails found to have very low rates. In the high-prevalence prisons, at least 13.9 percent of inmates reported being sexually abused – more than three times the national average (4 percent). (The panel has posted an agenda online that lists the ten prisons and jails included in the hearings.)
On January 9, the panel will focus on juvenile detention facilities, hearing testimony from representatives of the three worst and two best facilities, according to the BJS data. Shockingly, in two of the high-prevalence youth facilities – Paulding Regional Detention Center (Georgia) and Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility (Ohio) – more than 30 percent of youth reported being sexually abused. By contrast, the two low-prevalence facilities – Owensboro Treatment Center (Kentucky) and Grand Mesa Youth Services Center (Colorado) – had no reported cases at all. Nationwide, the BJS found that 9.5 percent of youth in detention facilities reported sexual abuse, with a staggering 81 percent victimized by staff.
The Review Panel will also hear from a range of experts, including corrections officials, advocates, and rape crisis counselors. At Wednesday’s session, Bob Dumond, Senior Program Director at Just Detention International, will testify on the extreme vulnerability of adult prisoners with mental illness. In its 2013 survey of prisons and jails, the BJS found that people with mental illnesses were sexually abused at significantly higher rates than other inmates.
The Review Panel hearings will be held at the Office of Justice Programs, Main Conference Room, Third Floor, 810 7th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20531.
– The Review Panel’s agenda for its hearings on prisons and jails can be found here, and the agenda for its hearings on youth detention facilities can be found here
– The BJS’s 2013 report on sexual abuse in adult prisons and jails can be found here
– The BJS’s 2013 report on sexual abuse in youth detention facilities can be found here