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Stopping Sexual Assaults in Juvenile Corrections Facilities: A Case Study of the California Division of Juvenile Justice

NCJ Number
Barry Krisberg Ph.D.
Date Published
June 2006
11 pages
This testimony by Barry Krisberg before the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission stems from his membership on a court-appointed monitoring team for a consent decree intended to counter sexual assault in California's juvenile corrections facilities.
The testimony indicates that fights, assaults on staff, and riots are common occurrences in the eight large facilities of the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Violence, gang and racial conflicts, and staff fears have led to extended lockdown periods, with many youth spending an average of 21 hours a day in their cells. The DJJ has little reliable data on violence in its institutions. Addressing this information gap is a key part of the proposed reform agenda. Krisberg proposes eight recommendations for reducing youth violence and sexual assaults in the California DJJ facilities and other youth corrections systems. One recommendation is to implement research-based risk and needs assessment classification systems that will identify youth most likely to be victims and offenders. Other recommendations are to have living units that house no more than 20 youth, to conduct staff training in techniques that enlist youth in the promotion of safety in each DJJ institution, and to provide adequate numbers of medical and mental health professionals in juvenile facilities. For 2002, Krisberg reviewed cases of sustained serious disciplinary infractions at six juvenile facilities he visited. His testimony reports that a conservative measurement documented just over 4,000 serious infractions of youth-on-youth assaults and batteries at these institutions (10 per day). An indepth analysis of these incidents would be required to determine how many included sexual violence. There were another 9 sustained disciplinary infractions for sexual assault and 56 sustained charges for sexual acts. Few of the youth with whom Krisberg talked felt safe in DJJ facilities.