A true game of silence

The NBC drama Game of Silence tells the story of four men set on revenge over the abuse they suffered in juvenile prison. The show is a remake of the Turkish drama Suskunlar, which appears to be based the book Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra, which had a movie of the same name. All four versions reveal the depth of cruelty that can occur in juvenile prisons. While the first two are fiction and there are some questions about the veracity of Carcaterra’s story, a recent case shows that this type of abuse does indeed happen.

Kevin Young went to Medomsley detention center in County Durham in 1977. There he endured abuse at the hands of a prison official:

The morning after he arrived at Medomsley, Young was lining up for breakfast when he was picked out of the queue by Neville Husband, the officer who ran the kitchen. Young later discovered that Husband had asked for his file – he wanted to know everything about him; most importantly, whether he had family who were likely to visit him. Young was one of a handful of new inmates sent to work in the kitchen with Husband.

“There are two things that are important to successfully sexually abuse somebody,” Young says. “By successful, I mean without being prosecuted. One, anonymity or silence – if you can’t carry out your act without people knowing, you’re not going to be at it very long. The second thing you need is a victim who’s ‘reliable’; a reliable victim is someone who’s already been abused to the point where, if they do speak out, who on Earth is going to believe them? And who on Earth is going to believe Kevin Young, the pauper’s son, who has been in and out of care, who’s a knife-wielding thug, a bully?” That is how a number of care home reports described Young, but he insists he was a quiet, over-obedient boy. “The truth is, nobody would have believed me.”

Abuse might be too mild a word for what Husband did to Young over the next two months. “I was raped repeatedly, tied up and ligatured [around the neck]. It was the worst of the worst.” That day after Young arrived, Husband took him to a storeroom above the kitchens that he had converted into a lounge. He locked the door, took out the key and stuffed the keyhole with tissues. “I thought I was going to be killed,” Young says. “I was told by Husband that you could easily be found hanged at Medomsley, and that that year, six boys had already hanged themselves.”

According to Young, Husband would take the boy to his house outside of prison and allow other men to rape him. One would think that people would notice an officer removing an inmate from the prison. As Young argues, the prison and police were not only aware of that, but aware of Husband’s violent tendencies yet still allowed him access to children: Continue reading

Study: female prison staff commit most abuse

Three years ago, the Justice Department commissioned a study on the rate of sexual violence in juvenile prisons. The resulting study found that about 10% of inmates, mostly boys, reported experiencing sexual violence. Most of the victims reported females staff or inmates as their abusers.

That news came as a shock as the common perception is that male staff and inmates would commit most sexual violence. While the study itself garnered media attention, few focused on the findings about who committed the majority of the violence.

Around the same time, several groups petitioned Attorney General Eric Holder to offer broader support for the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Specifically, they wanted greater attention paid to this problem. Holder, however, allowed the deadline to pass before acting, so those requests remain in limbo.

In the three years since the study, prison rape has received more public attention, but it appears little has actually changed:

The Justice Department released its second report last month, and this time researchers surveyed more than 8,700 juveniles housed in 326 facilities across the country. In all, the facilities house more than 18,000 juveniles, representing about one quarter of the nation’s total number of youngsters living in detention centers.

Drawing on their sample, Justice Department researchers estimate that 1,390 juveniles in the facilities they examined have experienced sex abuse at the hands of the staff supervising them, a rate of nearly 8 percent. Twenty percent who said they were victimized by staff said it happened on more than 10 occasions. Nine out of 10 victims were males abused by female staff.

Nearly two-thirds of the abused youngsters said that the officials lured them into sexual relationships by giving them special treatment, treating them like a favorite, giving gifts and pictures.

Twenty-one percent said staff gave them drugs or alcohol in exchange for sex.

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