[JURIST] About 12 percent of youth held in US juvenile detention facilities reported being sexually abused in the past year, according to a report [text, PDF; press release] released Thursday the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) [official website]. According to the report, about 2.6 percent of youth reported an incident involving another inmate, while 10.3 percent reported an incident involving staff. The BJS identified 13 facilities as having a "high rate" of sexual abuse, where the rate was nearly one in three youth. In response to the report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] "to swiftly issue national standards to end prison rape. The DOJ Office of Justice Programs Review Panel on Prison Rape will review and conduct hearings [press release] on the BJS report, as required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) [DOJ backgrounder].
In June, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) [official website] reported that prison rape continues to be a widespread problem across the US, in both adult and juvenile facilities. Also in June, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a Massachusetts regulation prohibiting prisoners from receiving sexually explicit mail is constitutional. The Massachusetts prison commissioner defended the regulation on the grounds that it was designed to promote prison safety and security. The DOJ reported in 2006 that sexual violence in US prisons often goes unreported [JURIST report] because victims fear further abuse or do not trust prison staff. In 2005, the DOJ released its first report [JURIST report] on prison rape in accordance with the PREA, but admitted that most incidents were probably never reported and that their numbers could not be reliably estimated.