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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Rise in Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Detention Facilities

A recent article by the Equal Justice Initiative reports on a study published by the Justice Department that found that allegations of reported child sexual abuse in juvenile detention facilities have increased in the past decade.

The study found that the rate of formal allegations of sexual abuse in state facilities rose from 19 per 1000 youth in 2005 to 47 per 1000 youth in 2012. Local and private facilities also saw increases in their rates of alleged sexual abuse from 2010 to 2012 as well. Staff harassment of the youth in juvenile detention facilities characterized 45 percent of these allegations.

The article also discusses the fact that most staff members who are found guilty of sexually abusing children in juvenile detention facilities do not face criminal charges. The study found that “most staff members do not face consequences apart from being discharged from their jobs or allowed to resign. The study shows that fewer than half of the staff members who were found to have abused children were subjected to legal action. Only about 37 percent were referred for possible criminal prosecution, and only about 17 percent were arrested. Nearly 20 percent kept their jobs.”

The study also found that over half of the confirmed victims of sexual abuse in juvenile detention facilities did not receive medical follow-up afterwards, including medical examinations, HIV/AIDS testing, and STD testing.

EJI’s article also stated that “juvenile correctional authorities told the Bureau of Justice Statistics that in half of the confirmed staff-on-youth sexual victimization cases, the sexual contact between the child and the staff member ‘appeared to be willing.’ The study’s authors disavowed this characterization, writing that ‘[r]egardless of how juvenile correctional authorities reported these incidents, they were considered an abuse of power, involved an unknown level of coercion, and were illegal.'”

To read the Equal Justice Initiative’s article, click here.

To read the Justice Department’s report on sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers, click here.