Sexual Abuse Of Incarcerated Youth: Prisons, Jails Required To Help Prevent Assaults

States and municipalities are scrambling to meet a deadline in August requiring that they curb sexual violence behind bars.

The federally mandated reforms come after studies and testimony uncovered striking levels of abuse among young people.

One in eight detained youths are sexually abused, according to a 2010 study by the Bureau of Justice, the most recent comprehensive report on the subject to date.

That number is nine times greater for transgender youths like Cyryna Pasion, who in 2004 at age 15 was arrested after she ran away from home in 2004, according to a Just Detention International.

Pasion was originally housed with female inmates, but in September 2004 when the female inmates were temporarily moved to another facility, Pasion was moved to the boys’ side of the facility.

"I am an 18 year-old transgender girl who was sexually harassed and assaulted, and continuously threatened with rape by other wards while incarcerated at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. The Youth Corrections Officers, or YCOs, and others were aware that this abuse was occurring, and even contributed to it by calling me derogatory names, but did nothing to protect me."

Pasion described the violence inflicted on her while incarcerated as "severe beyond belief." She added:

"I experienced the most damaging and emotionally devastating treatment of my life thus far when I was in a youth correctional facility and witnessed horrible treatment of other kids too that violated their right to be free from violence and sexual harassment. While I was not raped, I was sexually assaulted both physically and emotionally. I survived threats of violence, unwanted sexual touching and verbal abuse that were severe beyond belief."

In May of 2012, the Department of Justice put a mandate in place that requires incarceration facilities, including jails, prisons, juvenile detention facilities and halfway houses, to prevent sexual abuse. The guidelines apply to both juveniles and adults.

The new requirements demand that LGBT inmates, who are at greater risk of abuse, be housed appropriately so they're not put at risk, Just Detention Internationals spokesperson, Jesse Lerner-Kinglake said. There are also measures that would require incarceration facilities to provide an outside agency where inmates can report abuse.

That's crucial, Lerner-Kinglake said, because "about half the time" sexual abuse is perpetrated by employees of the facility where the victim is being held.

The deadline for state and local facilities to comply with the requirements is in August.

Lerner-Kinglake said he expects compliance with the mandate to be uneven.

"We work with a lot of committed corrections departments," Lerner-Kinglake said. "There are also small facilities and other departments that say there's no way we're going to do this. It runs the gamut."



Wrongfully Accused