Just Policy Blog repost by the Campaign for Youth Justice originally posted on October 21, 2013 for Youth Justice Awareness Month. Their recently released report, "State Tends," can be found here.
By Carmen Daugherty
More than a decade ago, a federal law was created to decrease and prevent prison rape and sexual assault in U.S. jails, prisons, detention centers, and lock ups. Yet, ten years later, youth under 18 are still at the highest risk of sexual victimization in adult detention facilities. With nearly 100,000 youth in adult jails and prisons each year, more must be done to protect youth under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) creates awareness for youth in the adult system, and this week, YJAM will focus on raising awareness for the full implementation of PREA.
PREA includes standards for youth under 18 in adult facilities. Unfortunately, the regulations do not call for the complete removal of kids in adult facilities, but Governors should see these regulations as a floor, not a ceiling. Under PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard, facilities must keep youth under 18 sight and sound separated from adults. Often times, adult facilities use solitary confinement or “segregation” to keep youth safe and away from adult offenders. Sadly, youth placed in solitary or segregation are not any safer since we know that youth in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts in juvenile facilities. To account for this, the Youthful Inmate Standard states that the use of isolation should not be used as a means to separate youth from adults.
We know that most juvenile justice systems across the country are better equipped to provide developmentally appropriate programs and services for youth. Additionally, youth in juvenile facilities receive true rehabilitative services that lower the chances of recidivism and provide a real opportunity to reenter their communities successfully.
Right now, states are auditing their detention facilities—jails, prisons, lock ups--to see if each is in compliance with PREA. Governors must certify whether their state meets basic requirements spelled out by PREA to keep inmates safe from sexual assault. This week, we are calling on you to tell your Governors to fully implement the Youthful Inmate Standard of PREA and tell the oversight agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, to have a stronger voice to protect children held in adult facilities.
Join us this week in continuing the conversation on youth justice issues, follow us on Facebook and Twitter using: #ImplementPREA #YJAM #youthjustice.
Daugherty is policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice.