Following the release of a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles released an official statement responding to the report’s claims that the state’s juvenile facilities post among the highest rates of sexual victimization in the nation.
The new BJS report, which uses findings from the 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody, cited Georgia as one of four states — along with Ohio, South Carolina and Illinois — with the highest rates of juvenile facility sexual victimization in the country. According to the BJS, four of the 13 facilities with the highest rates of sexual misconduct in the nation are found in Georgia, including the Paulding Regional Detention Center, which has detainee victimization rates in excess of 30 percent.
“We’re truly concerned to hear these allegations of sexual misconduct from juvenile residents who responded to the survey last year,” Niles said. “However we are also encouraged to see our residents speak up, and say ‘no’ to sexual abuse whether it’s inside or outside our secure facilities.”
Niles said Georgia’s DJJ encourages detained youth to inform personnel about abuses, whether they occur at the hands of staffers or other inmates.
“From the moment they walk in our centers, we work hard to educate our youth in custody so they won’t be intimidated about seeking help if they should ever encounter these types of abuses,” he added.
As a result of the report, Niles said he is ordering the state’s DJJ Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Advisory Committee to review the BJS findings.
“We have a zero tolerance policy in Georgia for PREA violations,” he stated. “Even though the report is based on anonymous surveys, I want the committee to analyze the report for any significant data which could help lead to arrests and convictions for staff sexual misconduct.”
Niles said he will assign an Internal Affairs investigator to the case and possibly seek prosecutions if the advisory committee reports “actionable findings.”
“DJJ will take a hard look at this,” Niles said. “DJJ will always teach our youth to break the silence and say ‘no’ to sexual abuse.”