Helping to stop sexual assaults of youth in custody

The Challenge 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) asked Westat to conduct the National Survey of Youth in Custody in 2008-09 and 2012. In 2016, BJS selected Westat to conduct this survey again in 2017-18. The survey is part of a program mandated by Congress to protect individuals from prison rape. The challenge was to gather accurate and representative data on sexual assault in juvenile facilities in a manner that protects inmate confidentiality and minimizes literacy issues.

Our Solutions 

  • We minimized risks to youth who participated in the study by working with state agencies and juvenile facilities to define procedures for obtaining consent, submitting mandatory reports, and making counseling available.
  • In 2012, more than 10,000 youth from 325 state juvenile facilities listened to and answered survey questions directly into a laptop computer in private. The use of this audio computer-assisted self-interview (ACASI) and other methodologies provided strong confidentiality protection to the youth.
  • Facility administrators completed surveys on the characteristics of their staff, youth, programs, and youth living areas.

The Results 

  • Our analysis determined rates of sexual victimization and included characteristics of the incidents, the facilities, the youth most at risk of victimization, the perpetrators, and the facilities.
  • We co-authored the primary report published by the federal government. States use these results to revise procedures to prevent and detect sexual assault in juvenile facilities.
  • The 2012 survey results found that about 10% of adjudicated youth reported sexual victimization, a decrease of almost 3 points from the previous survey conducted in 2008-09. Almost all of the decline was linked to a drop in sexual misconduct between facility staff and youth.
  • In 2014, Westat received the AAPOR Policy Impact Award for this study. This award recognizes outstanding research that has had a clear impact on improving policy decisions, practice, and discourse.
  • Information from these surveys will help officials know how to better protect youth in custody from sexual assaults.

 As required for DOJ grants, Westat periodically produces an EEOP Utilization Report that can be requested from the EEO/AAP Coordinator.

    Our Client 

    Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)