|CENTER ON JUVENILE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE|
|Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 54 Dore Street, San Francisco, CA 94103||Tel: (415) 621-5661 | Fax: (415) 621-5466|
CONTACT: Daniel Macallair
Tel: (415) 621-5661 x310
Despite the lessons of history, Congress stands poised to reunite adults and juveniles in the same prison system. The new juvenile justice legislation calls for the jailing juveniles with adult criminals, and would force states to transfer large numbers of young offenders to adult prisons in order to be eligible for federal funds. Child advocates, law enforcement officials, and criminologists have urged Congress to consider the destructive effects of placing youth in adult jails and prisons a substantial body of research shows that placing youth in adult institutions accentuates criminal behavior after release. 1
In a recent full page advertisement, sheriffs, district attorneys and legal professionals explained why they think the proposed legislation will make their jobs more difficult: "lock up a 13-year old with murderers, rapists and robbers, and guess what he'll want to be when he grows up?"2 Even John DiIulio, head of the conservative Council on Crime in America - a group that has provided much of the statistical and (flawed) analytical support for the juvenile crime bill - doesn't think locking children up with adults is a good idea. DiIulio wrote in The New York Times that "(m)ost kids who get into serious trouble with the law need adult guidance. And they won't find suitable role models in prison. Jailing youth with adult felons under Spartan conditions will merely produce more street gladiators." 3
The most disturbing aspect of the new bill is the well-founded fear that the thousands of young people slated to be placed in adult prisons and jails are more likely to be raped, assaulted, and commit suicide. Surveys have documented the higher risk juveniles face when placed in adult institutions, and people who work with youth know the all-too-familiar stories: In Ohio, a 15-year-old girl is sexually assaulted by a deputy jailer after she is placed in an adult jail for a minor infraction; In Kentucky, 30 minutes after a 15-year-old is put in a jail cell following an argument with his mother, the youth hangs himself. 4 In one year, four children being held in Kentucky jails "for offenses ranging from disorderly conduct, to non-offenses, like running away from home" committed suicide.
While groups as diverse as the American Jail Association to American Civil Liberties Association have lobbied to keep kids out of the reach of adult prisoners, the bills before Congress will result in substantially more youths being imprisoned with adults. It is timely and important to revisit the few statistics on how juveniles fare in adult institutions as Congress considers these dramatic justice system changes.
Even on the less politically charged measure of the number of "inmate-on-inmate" assaults, it is hard to come up with conclusive answer to whether inmates are more likely to be attacked in a juvenile institution or an adult prison. The Corrections Yearbook, an annual survey of the state of America's prisons compiled by the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), suggests that assault rates vary wildly from state to state. The Yearbook's statistics show: Inmates are seven times more likely to be referred for medical attention due to an inmate assault in an adult prison in Connecticut than in one of the state's juvenile institutions.8 In Oklahoma, inmates are ten times more likely to be referred, and in Kansas, eleven times more likely to see a medical professional due to an attack by another inmate.9 In other states, the stark difference seen here between reported assaults requiring medical attention in juvenile institutions and adult prisons are reversed.10
There are a number of academic surveys which more clearly document what happens to youth when they are placed in adult institutions.
A more recent report on prison suicides completed by the British Prison Reform Trust supports the findings of the Flaherty study. Analyzing data collected by Her Majesty's Prison Service, the Trust found that while people aged 15 to 21 made up only 13 percent of the prison population, they comprised 22 percent of all suicide deaths. 13
These studies confirm what law enforcement officials have been telling Congress: that children are abused more regularly and driven to desperation in prison facilities more quickly. Adult prisons and jails are not equipped to protect young offenders from these risks as well, they are more likely to fall through the cracks.
Another set of studies suggests which system is more likely to result in an inmate being raped. A group of researchers in 1983 found that among the residents of six juvenile institutions, 9.1 percent of youth inmates reported being a "victim" of a sexual attack. 16 But a 1996 study of adult prisoners in Kansas found that 15 percent of inmates reported to being "forced to have sex against their will."17
Surveys in other countries have found similarly higher rape rates for young offenders in adult institutions. An Australian survey shows that of 183 inmates aged 18 to 25 surveyed in a New South Wales prison, one quarter reported being raped or sexually assaulted, and more than half said they lived in fear of it. 18 A recent Canadian survey showed that among 117 inmates surveyed in a federal prison, 65 incidents involving sexual assault were reported. Among those, the odds of victimization were eight times higher for a twenty year old prisoner than the oldest inmates in the system.19 "Compared to non victims," the study reports, "victims tended to be younger, housed in higher security settings, and in the early part of their prison term." 20
These statistics seem to fit with what some criminologists call the "prototype" prison rape victim: someone young, if not the youngest inmate within a given institutional system. Professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University's School of Public Health points out that "because they are physically diminutive, they [juveniles] are subject to attack.... They will become somebody's 'girlfriend' very, very fast." 21 In an expose on prisons published in The New Republic, a corrections officer is quoted saying that a young inmate's chance of avoiding rape were "almost zero.... He'll get raped within the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours. That's almost standard."22 As the juveniles sent to adult prison system will be the youngest inmates on the block, they will likely face the greatest risk of being sexually attacked.
Whatever kind of threat you choose, be it rape, assault by institution staff, or suicide, prison is a more dangerous place for young offenders. But the frightening character of these statistics raise a larger issue in terms of how effective the new bill will be from a crime control perspective. As the authors of the rape study note, victimization by violence has well-established consequences for subsequent violence and crime. Victims of rape or sexual assault are more likely to exhibit aggression towards women and children. "Although [juvenile] transfer decreases community risk through lengthy incapacitation of violent youngsters," the authors write, "...the social costs of imprisoning young offenders in adult facilities may be paid in later crime and violence upon their release." 25
All 50 states have laws on the books allowing juveniles to be tried as adults. Over the past 2 years, 42 states have toughened those laws. Clearly, this is not an area which requires urgent Federal intervention to spur the states into action.
The Justice Policy Institute recommends that Congress put much needed resources into a two year state-by-state evaluation of the changes in America's juvenile justice system. We further recommend that Congress hold off on sweeping and ill-advised legislation at this time. During that period, it is our recommendation that funds be specifically allocated to research:
°The different reoffense rates of similar groups of youth offenders held in juvenile and adult institutions.No legislation that would reverse a century of juvenile justice reform and put thousands of young people into the adult prison system should be undertaken until this kind of research is done.
°The different rates of sexual and physical victimizations and suicides of juveniles in adult institutions, as compared to the rate in juvenile centers.
°A comparison of the different rates of juvenile crime in states with a large number of youth offenders in adult jails, as compared to the rates of states with few or no juveniles in adult institutions.
This research was funded by the Juvenile Center on the Crime, Communities and Culture, The Public Welfare Foundation, and the Van Loben Sels Foundation.
2 Ad placed by The Coalition to Prevent Juvenile Crime, The Washington Times, June 11, 1997
3 DiIulio, John J. Jr., "Crime Where it Starts," The New York Times, July 13, 1996.
4 Soler, Mark I. (June, 1997) Remarks before the Senate Youth Violence Subcommittee, Senate Judiciary Committee, on the core requirement's of the Juvenile Justice Act and the "Violent Juvenile and Repeat Offender Act of 1997"., Washington, DC.
5 Richey, Warren. (June 2, 1997)"Teen Crime Trend Puts Them Behind Adult Bars," The Christian Science Monitor, June 2, 1997.
6 Drumond, Robert W. "The Sexual Assault of Male Inmates in Incarcerated Settings," International Journal of the Sociology Law (22), 1992.
7 Donaldson, Stephen. (July, 1995) "Rape of Incarcerated Americans: A Preliminary Statistical Look." 7th Ed, Stop Prison Rape, New York, New York.
8 The Corrections Yearbook: Juvenile Corrections, 1995, p. 27; The Corrections Yearbook: Adult Corrections, 1995, p. 26.
11 Flaherty, Michael G. "An Assessment of the national incidence of juvenile suicide in adult jails, lockups, and juvenile detention centers." The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
13 The Rising Toll of Prison Suicide (April, 1997), The Prison Reform Trust, London, England.
14 Fagan, Jeffrey, Martin Forst and T. Scott Vivona. "Youth In Prisons and Training Schools: Perceptions and Consequences of the Treatment-Custody Dichotomy." Juvenile and Family Court, No. 2, 1989., p. 10
16 Bartollas, Clemens and Christopher M. Sieverdes, "The Sexual Victim in a co-educational Juvenile Correctional Institution," The Prison Journal, Vol. 68, No. 1, 1983.
17 Struckman-Johnson, Cindy and David Struckman Johnson. "Sexual Coercion Reported by Men and Women."The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 33, No. 1, 1996.
18 Heilpern, David. "Sexual Assault of New South Wales Prisons, in Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Vol. 6, No 3, 1995.
19 Cooley, Dennis, "Criminal Victimization in male federal prisons," The Canadian Journal of Criminology, October 1993.
21 "Kids Behind Bars," Investigative Reports, A & E Network, June 14, 1997.
22 Lerner, S. (October 15, 1984) "The Rule of the Cruel." The New Republic
23 Fagan, et al.
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