Earlier this month, Sheriff Gilbertson of Josephine County, Oregon decided that youth awaiting sentencing will be detained in adult jail rather than in a juvenile facility. The Sheriff's reason: lack of funds.
This new policy flies in the face of the latest research about the dangers youth face in adult jails.
The latest research shows that it is extremely difficult to keep youth safe in adult jails. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 21% and 13% of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005 and 2006 respectively, were youth under the age of 18(surprisingly high since only 1% of jail inmates are juveniles).
Additionally, separating these youth from adults might seem like a solution, but that is not adequate either. While separating youth from adults in adult jails will reduce contact with adults that could result in physical or emotional harm to youth, they are often placed in isolation. Youth are frequently locked down 23 hours a day in small cells with no natural light. These conditions can cause anxiety, paranoia, and exacerbate existing mental disorders and put youth at risk of suicide.
Finally, youth have the highest suicide rates of all inmates in jails. Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility, and 19 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than youth in the general population.
Urge Sheriff Gilbertson to reverse this policy!