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Sex abuse claims high at Culpeper juvenile center

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Posted: Friday, January 8, 2010 6:01 am | Updated: 6:14 pm, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

WASHINGTON — A government study issued Thursday found 13 juvenile detention facilities around the country have high rates of sex abuse and victimization, where nearly 1 out of every 3 inmates reported some type of victimization.

The Culpeper Juvenile Correctional Center in Mitchells is among the facilities identified in the report.

At the 13 locations, most reports of sexual victimization involved nonconsensual sex acts with another youth or serious sex acts with facility staff.

About 10 percent reported incidents involved facility staff members, and nearly all of those complaints were against female staffers. About 2 percent of the reported incidents involved abuse perpetrated against young inmates by other youths.

Culpeper’s center is run by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. Opened in 1999, the maximum-security facility is located about five miles south of town on Rapidan Road and houses 18- to 20-year-old men sentenced in circuit court.

Bruce Twyman, a spokesman for the VDJJ, said work is ongoing to address the issue.

To deal with the problem, Twyman, who said he saw a preliminary copy of the report before its public release, said staffers are receiving new training to spot sexual victimization. Upgraded video surveillance is also being employed.

Despite what Twyman called a relatively small sample size of 50 youths interviewed in the Culpeper facility — at least 15 reported sexual abuse — he acknowledged that the methodology alone wasn’t a good reason to dismiss the findings.

“Even if you take issue with the report,” he said, “It’s not something that we’re proud of. We look at it from this standpoint: Any sexual victimization is one too many, so we want to be very aggressive about rooting it out, there’s no question about that.”

About 147 youths are in custody in Culpeper, overseen by a total staff of 156 adults, Twyman said.

In addition to Culpeper, the study identified five other facilities where the survey found at least 3 out of every 10 inmates said they were sexually victimized while in custody:

— Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana;

— Corsicana Residential Treatment Center in Texas;

— Backbone Mountain Youth Center in Swanton, Md.;

— Samarkand Youth Development Center in Eagle Springs, N.C.; and

— Cresson Secure Treat-ment Unit in Pennsylvania.

At Pendleton, the rate of incidents was double the national average for such facilities.

Another seven U.S. sites also reported higher-than-average levels of sexual abuse or victimization:

— Victory Field Correc-tional Academy in Vernon, Texas;

— Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility;

— Shawono Center in Grayling, Mich.;

— Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville, Tenn.;

— L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs, Okla.;

— Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Virginia; and

— New Jersey Training School in Monroe Township, N.J.

“We’re surprised we fall into that category,” Twyman said of having two Virginia facilities included in the high range.

Staff sexual misconduct was higher in state-run facilities than in privately or locally operated sites, the study found, and smaller facilities tended to have fewer incidents of sexual victimization.

Nationwide, the Justice Department’s study found that about 12 percent of youths held in state-run, privately run, or local facilities reported some type of sexual victimization, but those rates varied widely from place to place. The figures are based on surveys of youths in custody.

Approximately 26,550 juveniles are held in such facilities around the country, and the survey, conducted for the government by Westat, a company based in Rockville, Md., collected information from about 9,000 of them.

Nearly 80 percent of the victims said at least one incident took place in a common area, such as a classroom or office, while about half said at least one incident happened in the shower, and half of the victims said they had been victimized by staff in their room or sleeping areas.

The study found most of the abuse took place in the evening, between 6 p.m. and midnight.

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