As in other correctional settings, courts have found that sexual abuse in community corrections violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, community corrections agencies, like prisons and jails, have a special responsibility to protect the people they supervise. Courts also have determined that the authority staff have over the individuals they monitor makes a truly consensual sexual relationship impossible. Community corrections agencies are accountable for sexual abuse incidents, regardless of whether the circumstances in which the abuse occurred were under the direct control of the agency or a separate organization working under contract with the agency. Anyone in a supervisory position can be held liable for abuse. For example, in Smith v. Cochran, Pamela Smith was in jail but participating in a work release program. Her supervisor on the job sexually assaulted her, and the court ruled that important “penological responsibilities” had been delegated to him.The report notably also called for more research into the issue of rape among the ever-growing number of immigration detainees:
Although individuals under correctional supervision in the community may experience sexual abuse at the hands of other supervisees, the dynamics of supervision make them particularly vulnerable to abuse by staff. Coercion and threats carry great weight because individuals under supervision are typically desperate to avoid being incarcerated. Staff also have virtually unlimited access to the individuals they supervise, sometimes in private and intimate settings. In Ramsey County, Minnesota, for example, a male community corrections officer visiting a former prisoner’s apartment to discuss her failure in a drug treatment program instead requested and had sex with her.
In the 15 years from 1994 to 2009, the number of immigrants held in detention pending a judicial decision about their legal right to remain in the United States increased nearly 400 percent. For the 2009 fiscal year, ICE has budgeted enough money to detain 33,400 people on any given night and more than 400,000 people over the course of the year. The population of immigration detainees includes adults, thousands of “unaccompanied” children, and whole families confined together.I must admit I'd never considered those particular aspects of the issue, but I'm glad the commission did.
The prevalence of sexual abuse among immigration detainees is unknown and has yet to receive the attention and research it merits, but accounts of abuse by other detainees and staff have been coming to light for more than 20 years. Many factors—personal and circumstantial, alone or in combination—make immigration detainees especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. One of the most pervasive factors is social isolation. Individuals are often confined far from family or friends and may not speak the language of other detainees or staff. Those who have already suffered terrifying experiences in their home countries or in the United States can be almost defenseless by the time they are detained and may even expect to be abused.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, we've recently gotten the first estimates of national prevalence rates for in-custody rape: In large national survey, according to the report, about 4.5% of inmates US prisons and 3.2% in local jails said they'd been victims of sexual assault while incarcerated within the prior 12 months. "Approximately 20 percent of all victims said that they had been physically injured during the course of the abuse." In jails, in particular, some categories of inmates were much more likely to be abused:
Women were more likely than men to be sexually victimized (5 percent compared with 3 percent). Rates were higher among younger inmates: 4.6 percent among respondents 18 to 24 years old, compared with 2.4 percent among respondents 25 years and older. Nearly a fifth (18.5 percent) of inmates who identified as homosexual and 9.8 percent who identified as bisexual or “other orientation” reported being sexually victimized, compared with 2.7 percent of heterosexual inmates. ...See additional coverage from the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Youth confined with adults also are at high risk of sexual abuse. In 2005, for example, individuals under the age of 18 made up less than 1 percent of all inmates in U.S. jails.64 Yet 21 percent of all victims of substantiated incidents of sexual abuse involving jail inmates that year were under the age of 18