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Va. group calls for juvenile detention changes after abuse report

A Virginia group led by former Va. Attorney General Mark Earley urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to adopt recommendations issued by a Congressional panel in the wake of a new Justice Department report on sexual abuse at juvenile detention centers.

The report, released Thursday, revealed that about 12 percent of youth held in state-run or large private or local facilities reported that they had been abused by another inmate or a staff member. The survey identified 13 facilities with a "high rate" of abuse.

"We can no longer look the other way as government correctional facilities allow those under their authority -- especially juvenile offenders -- to be subjected to sexual assault," said Prison Fellowship president Earley. “We demand zero tolerance of this egregious abuse of power.”

About 1,150 young people, or 4.3 percent, said they had been forced to have sexual contact with an employee. Just over 1,700 inmates, or about 6.4 percent, reported sexual contact with staff without any force or threat.

Earley and others at Lansdowne-based Prison Fellowship, which works with churches to minister to prisoners, urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to adopt recommendations made by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, a Congressional panel that studied the detection and prevention of abuse in jails and prisons.

Prison Fellowship Vice President Pat Nolan was a member of that panel, which released its report in June. According to the fellowship website, Nolan is a former California State Assembly member who served 25 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a racketeering charge.

The U.S. Department of Justice officials have said a working group will review the recommendations made by the commission. Federal officials also said they will conduct hearings on the report and gather input from correctional officials and other experts on how to improve conditions.

In addition, the departent intends to create a National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Youth in Custody. The center would support efforts to detect and prevent abuse.

Prison Fellowship was founded in 1976 by Chuck Colson, a former aide to President Nixon.

-- Maria Glod

By Maria Glod  |  January 7, 2010; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  Maria Glod , Updates , Virginia  
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