15% of teens suffering sexual abuse in custody

Published 06/13 2013 05:15PM

Updated 06/13 2013 06:20PM

SPRINGFIELD -- A new report finds major problems in the state's youth prisons. 15% of jailed teens say they've been sexually abused behind bars. That's higher than nearly every other state.

Prison watchdog groups say there's just not enough oversight. Nobody is around to watch what's going on and there's no one to follow up on complaints if a teen inmate files one.

Part of the problem is youth prisons here are bigger facilities than in other states. They're almost like adult prisons and they're fairly isolated. They're far away from where families live, so there's not a lot of outside interaction. It paves the way for things like this to fly under the radar.

Youth justice advocates call the numbers "shocking," but say there's a way to turn it all around. The report says most cases were between female staff and teen boys at one facility; Joliet. One in five teens say they were sexually abused while there.

That one is now closed, but the state is calling for an immediate review of policies and procedures. Advocates say it's a good first step, but there is a lot more work to be done.

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