Children In Adult Prisons
AFTER an unconscionable delay of nearly three years, the Justice Department needs to issue the final, mandatory rapeprevention policies for federal prisons and state correctional institutions that receive federal dollars. They must improve on the proposed rules issued last spring.
Those rules included more effective ways to investigate alleged attacks, report assaults, and improve medical and psychiatric help for the victims. But they notably failed to call for an end to the barbaric practice of placing children and youths in adult jails and prisons. Children will never be safe without that change.
T h i r t y - t w o members of Congress made exactly this point last week in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr, noting that “such a prohibition would be consistent with congressional intent” as embodied in the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.
An estimated 10,000 youths younger than 18 can be found in adult jails or prisons on any given day, according to federal statistics. As the members pointed out, data from a 2005 study showed that youths made up only 1 percent of the inmates in jails and prisons, but 21 percent of the victims of sexual violence.
Numerous studies show that placing children in adult prisons leads to more suicide, victimisation and recidivism, which is costly in both human and economic terms.
Based on this evidence, California has broken with the past and, with the rare exception, no longer houses children younger than 18 in adult prisons.
It is time for all states, with guidance from the Justice Department, to follow this sensible and humane example.