U.S. Senate Launches Inquiry into Alleged Abuse of Youth in Juvenile Detention Facilities

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By Jonathan Nunez and Karime Montano Ayon

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) has launched an inquiry into the alleged abuse of youth in juvenile detention facilities, involving, said the lawmaker, that “in 2019 about 36,000 juveniles were confined in more than 1,500 juvenile residential placement facilities across the United States.”

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution report multiple teenagers have suffered physical abuse and have even died in the span of just a few weeks, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution added at least 150 juvenile inmates have been sexually assaulted by other juvenile detainees.

In a press statement by Ossoff, an attorney that represents juvenile defendants, Demetra Ford, said she believed youth prisons are more dangerous than adult prisons.

One of Ford’s clients, who at the time was 14, was assaulted 10 times during his first nine months at the juvenile prison. And Ford said the story was not uncommon, noting, “Some of those kids actually come out in worse shape than they were going in, both physically and emotionally.”

According to the press release, Georgia’s juvenile detention centers are not alone in their newfound discoveries, citing a New York Times 2022 investigation that noted “gross mistreatment of youth in a state-operated juvenile detention facility in Louisiana, including numerous instances of physical abuse and sexual assault occurring over a 25-year period.”

Sen. Ossoff conducted his own long-term examinations of the American incarceration system by launching multiple investigations of the federal prison system in 2022, and he said the bipartisan investigation found “corruption, abuse, and misconduct at U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta; uncounted deaths in America’s prisons and jails; and sexual abuse of women in federal prisons.”

Ossoff said the investigations ultimately led up to his launching an inquiry with the Department of Justice about the alleged abuse of youth in juvenile detention facilities within the nation in 2023. Sen. Ossoff not only launched an inquiry into juvenile detentions in Georgia and Clayton County Jail, where Sen. Ossoff’s investigation first began, but nationwide.

In Sen. Ossoff’s inquiry to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, he explicitly highlighted the atrocities youth in juvenile detentions have faced.

According to the press release, in April of 2023, Senators Jon Ossoff, Mike Braun and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee made one step toward combating this national crisis: introducing the bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act. This legislation establishes independent supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to directly combat any lapse of oversight within the federal prison system.

According to the press release, in July 2023 Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the bipartisan Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2023, to make the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director a U.S. Senate-confirmed position.

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