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On an average night in 2011, more than 60,000 children were held in a residential placement in the juvenile justice system. Additionally, over 1,500 children were held in adult prisons. In 1976, CDF released a report, Children in Adult Jails, which brought national attention to the large numbers of children subjected to the violation of their rights and well-being through incarceration with adults. While there has been progress in some states, there is much more work to do.
Youths are at the highest risk of being sexually abused while in confinement, and children housed in adult facilities are at an even higher risk of being victims of sexual abuse than children retained in juvenile facilities. In light of these disturbing findings, the National Prison Rape Elimination Act Commission recommended recently that juveniles be kept in separate facilities from adults. As the Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), CDF joined other children’s and juvenile justice advocacy organizations in submitting comments urging the DOJ to follow the Commission’s recommendation and remove all children — whether they are in the juvenile justice or adult criminal justice system — from adult jails and prisons. CDF worked with the Campaign for Youth Justice and other advocacy organizations to support the DOJ in keeping young people safe from sexual abuse and other harms resulting when housing children with adult inmates.