The high rate of sexual abuse of juveniles in U.S. prisons is unacceptable, declared the ministry Prison Fellowship in response to a government report released this week.
According to the report "Sexual Victimization of Youth Facilities Reported by Juvenile Offenders, 2008-09" released by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than one in ten youths in prison reported a sexual assault in the past year, with the majority of incidents involving sexual abuse by staff.
Even more disturbing is that in 13 facilities, as many as one in four juvenile offenders reported a sexual assault in the past 12 months.
"No crime – no matter how heinous – has a sentence that includes sexual assault," said Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship. "As a society – and especially as followers of Christ – we have the responsibility to protect those we send to prison from abuses such as rape and sexual violence, especially when we are talking about children."
Nolan serves on a national, bipartisan commission created by Congress that studies federal, state and local policies and practices related to the prevention, detection, response and monitoring of sexual abuse in America's corrections system.
Citing the number of abuse in the latest report, the PFM vice president calls on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately adopt standards that hold prison officials accountable for ending the widespread sexual violence in U.S. correctional facilities.
He urges Christians to demand that Holder "put an end to this scandal in our prisons."
The latest BJS report on juveniles in U.S. prisons follows a September 2009 study, "The Department of Justice's Efforts to Prevent Staff Sexual Abuse of Federal Inmates," which reveals that allegations of criminal sexual abuse and noncriminal sexual misconduct by prison staff more than doubled during the past eight years.
"While any discussion of rape makes us all uncomfortable, it is scandalous that so many youngsters have been sexually assaulted in government facilities," said PFM president and former Virginia attorney general Mark Earley. "The Church must insist that our government protect these young people. We must demand zero tolerance of this egregious abuse of power."
Prison Fellowship was founded in 1976 by former President Richard Nixon aide Chuck Colson. The ministry is the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. Its programs in correctional facilities occur in all 50 U.S. states and the ministry works with more than 20,000 partner churches in the nation.