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US: 1 in 10 Children in Juvenile Facilities Report Sexual Abuse by Staff

Justice Department Should Issue Prison Rape Standards


New government data suggesting high levels of sexual abuse of
confined youth in the United States should galvanize the Department of
Justice to swiftly issue national standards to end prison rape, Human
Rights Watch said today.

According to the first National Survey of Youth in Custody,
released today by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 10
youth in state juvenile facilities and large non-state facilities
reported sexual victimization by staff in the previous twelve months.
Another 2.6 percent reported sexual victimization at the hands of other
youth. Youth who are not heterosexual are at particular risk: 1 in 5
reported sexual abuse by staff or other youth. In the very worst
facilities, 20 to more than 30 percent of all youth reported abuse.

"The widespread sexual abuse of children in juvenile facilities
shows that public officials either aren't paying attention or can't be
bothered to do the right thing," said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel for
the US Program at Human Rights Watch. "The high rates of victimization
are powerful testimony to the failure of governments to safeguard the
boys and girls in their care."

Six months ago, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission,
created by the National Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA),
released a report documenting the nature, causes, and prevalence of
rape in adult and juvenile detention facilities. Fellner was one of the
eight commissioners. Based on extensive research and consultations with
corrections experts and other stakeholders across the country, the
Commission proposed comprehensive, effective standards for the
prevention, detection, and punishment of prison rape.

Under the terms of PREA, the attorney general of the United States
has one year from receipt of the Commission's proposed standards to
issue final standards. Although the Justice Department has created a
working group to address prison rape, it has not issued any standards
nor indicated that it will do so any time soon.

"Every day Attorney General Eric Holder fails to promulgate national
prison rape elimination standards is another day in which kids and
adults are being abused behind bars," Fellner said. "The attorney
general already has on his desk proposed standards that reflect the
best thinking and effective practices to end this widespread scourge.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel or to delay moving forward."

Areas covered by the commission's proposed standards include:
supervision; screening for vulnerability to abuse; medical and mental
health services; reporting mechanisms; investigations; staff training;
administrative sanctions; internal monitoring; and external audits.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.