Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities
In a recent federal report on sexual victimization of youth in state correctional facilities, Illinois facilities had one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country, ranking 5 percentage points above the national average and in the top ten worst facilities for abuse. In response to these findings, the House Restorative Justice Committee convened an emergency hearing to discuss the report on sexual victimization and the state's measures to protect youth in custody.
CFJC director Julie Biehl was invited to testify at the hearing. Her testimony discusses the harm of incarceration and the need to provide incarcerated youth with access to counsel.
"Our society has grown increasingly aware that persons who are institutionalized in large, 24-hour facilities are at heightened risk of maltreatment or abuse by caregivers, and that teenagers in the community are frequently targeted for abuse by teachers, coaches, pastors, or other authority figures, particularly in “closed,” secrecy-promoting settings. These familiar risks are compounded many times over when the facilities are escape-proof and are so far away from family homes that parental visits are rare. "
Read CFJC director Julie Biehl's full testimony (pdf).
Spotlight on Illinois
Out of the thirteen facilities found to have the highest rates of sexual victimization by youth or staff, the Illinois Youth Center – Joliet ranked among them. IYC Joliet was the only maximum security prison for male juveniles in Illinois, and was closed in February 2013. Juvenile inmates housed in Joliet were relocated to youth centers at St. Charles, Kewanee, or Harrisburg. There has been significant outcry about poor conditions in Illinois facilities surrounding this report, with calls for an independent ombudsman to be appointed for youth prisons.
Juvenile justice advocate Miriame Kaba, of Project NIA, spoke to WBEZ (podcast) about the report’s findings.
Ranking of IYC Joliet in the National Survey
#9 for Rates of Any Sexual Victimization
#10 for Rates of Youth-on-Youth Sexual Misconduct
#6 for Rates of Staff Sexual Misconduct