Not one teenager surveyed in a U.S. Department of Justice study said they were sexually assaulted or raped during the past year of their detention in a New York facility, but the Albany Times-Union says it’s a meaningless statistic because state officials, citing privacy, hindered federal officials trying to survey youths raped in state prisons. Compared with the 9.5 percent of young inmates surveyed who reported being sexually abused nationwide, New York’s 0 percent score appears good. However, out of 460 juvenile inmates chosen for sampling in New York, only 57 were successfully interviewed, a 12.4 percent response rate, the nation’s lowest. Federal statisticians were left without enough data to make an estimate about the prevalence of sexual abuse in New York’s juvenile facilities.
Onerous consent procedures made accessing youth difficult, said Allen Beck of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. New York required written consent from a parent or guardian before federal surveyors could ask a minor to participate in the anonymous survey. The state would not provide the information necessary to contact the guardians without obtaining the child’s written approval to release their address, a “Catch-22,” as Beck described it. This, in effect, required surveyors to obtain approval from the youth in person on two separate occasions in what amounted to a consent loop: randomly selected youths had to consent to their parents being asked if they could later be asked to participate in the survey.