Youth Advocacy Groups Comment on Prison Rape Elimination Standards

Seven youth advocacy groups submitted comments on May 10, 2010 to the U.S. Department of Justice on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) Standards for the Prevention, Detection, Response, and Monitoring of Sexual Abuse in juvenile facilities.  Work on the extensive comments was led by  the Campaign for Youth Justice, with participation from the Youth Law Center, the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, Equity Project, and Juvenile Law Center.

The need for the standards is great given findings from the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics that 10.3 percent of institutionalized youth surveyed reported a sexual abuse incident involving a staff member and 2.6 percent reporting an incident involving another youth.  While the groups generally support the proposed standards, the comments express concern that the standards would require mental health and medical staff to ask juveniles about any sexually abusive behavior they have engaged in. This would violate treatment relationship between the professionals and the youths, and the information could be gathered by other means.  The comments also ask that language in the final standards  clarify what constitutes consensual sex between two residents of a juvenile facility. While consensual acts may be a violation of facility rules, and warrant punishment, the advocates wrote, considering such acts as “abuse” may expose juveniles to undeserved criminal charges.

Among the other comments are requests that the Justice Department to require states to keep all youth under the age of 18 out of adult facilities, which is already the practice of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; require more guidance to facility staff on how individualized planning can be used to help protect gay and lesbian youth, who frequently are segregated from the general population in juvenile facilities; and inclusion of a clear statement on the dangers of using isolation as a punishment or placement for youth involved in sexual abuse.

The reports are available through this link.