Youths in Illinois juvenile prisons suffered higher rates of sexual assault than those in other states because of the lack of adequate staffing and state-of-the-art security cameras and a failure to spot "red flag" behavior, a report released Wednesday found.
State Department of Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop said the agency is working to implement reforms proposed in the report, which was commissioned after a federal report issued in June found that as many as 1 in 5 Illinois juvenile inmates had been victimized sexually by a staff member or other inmate. The statewide average at the eight facilities, two of which were closed earlier this year, was more than 15 percent, the highest rate in the federal survey.
The new report from Kinsale Management Consulting notes that state records show only six cases of abuse were reported statewide from 2011 to 2012, while the federal survey indicated hundreds of cases of abuse during that time.
Among the problems noted in the Kinsale report was a lack of a policy barring staff and youths from being in one-on-one contact while unobserved and proper training and maturity for some staff.
The report also notes chronic understaffing, a problem exacerbated by frequent absences and tardiness by juvenile officers, which reduced supervision of youth offenders.
The report recommends creating an independent body to receive and review complaints, which youth advocates also called for this spring. The report notes that a 24-hour hotline has been created since spring.
In a news release Wednesday afternoon, Bishop said the agency has increased training for staff, created a statewide youth advisory council and was researching creating an ombudsman position and improving camera surveillance at state facilities.
"The Department of Juvenile Justice has zero tolerance for any type of sexual abuse, harassment or victimization and is committed to providing safe, rehabilitative and appropriately secure environments for youth and staff," Bishop said in the statement.