According to the report, approximately 15 percent of youth inmates were sexually assaulted by other inmates or staff, markedly higher than the national average of less than 10 percent. Just four states — Ohio, South Carolina, California, and Georgia — have higher levels of assault than Illinois.
The Chicago Tribune has more on what may be contributing to the systemic problem of abuse among Illinois’ incarcerated youth:
Juvenile justice advocates said Illinois’ high rate of sexual assault in the survey may be a result of the isolation of offenders in the system, said Elizabeth Clark, director of the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
Illinois’ youth prisons are larger than in other states and tend to be located far from the urban centers where inmates’ families live. Unlike adult prisons in the state, there is no ombudsman or inspector general to follow up on complaints from juveniles, Clark said.
As ProPublica notes, one of the most pervasive problems is assault committed by prison staff. Indeed, 1 in 5 youth who had been sexually assaulted by staff had been abused on at least 10 occasions.
The report may prompt action to curb abuse in Illinois. “I’m extremely concerned, extremely upset about the findings of the report,” Department of Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop said. He also announced that he will form a panel to review the findings and figure out what can be done to improve Illinois’ six youth detention facilities.