A recent report in San Diego CityBeat has accused San Diego County Probation of altering or misreporting numbers to appear as though sexual harassment, abuse and rape never occur within the walls of San Diego County juvenile facilities.
There are 11 juvenile facilities in San Diego County (five of which are for detention), but the main focus of the article was spotlighting the Kearny Mesa and East Mesa Juvenile Hall detention facilities and their reports.
San Diego CityBeat reported the San Diego County Probation Department has intentionally misreported surveys regarding sexual abuse of detainees in both San Diego detention facilities. The article, however, said incidences were not reported to the Bureau of Justice Statistics — a committee appointed to survey such reports annually — but were made public on local news stations. If this is the case, and county officials have in fact come forward publicly or otherwise, should we not be looking at the BJS or the person responsible for incorrectly filing the reports? CityBeat itself reports several instances in which sexual misconduct was reported in the local news or while the incident was still under investigation.
For instance, the so-called “misreported numbers” were surveyed between 2004 and 2010; however, in 2009 an investigation was launched by the County Probation Department alleging sexual misconduct between a female juvenile probation officer and a male 17-year -old East Mesa detainee. The report made local news on CBS 8 and KGTV 10, and the probation officer resigned before the investigation was complete. The news stations slaughtered the officer’s reputation using non-consensual terms such as “sexual molestation” and “rape,” but then went on to disclose that the woman divorced her husband and may still be maintaining a relationship with the now-adult former detainee, three years later.
San Diego Juvenile Probation has tied the allegations of falsification to rules stating they are not required to disclose information on cases investigated by their own internal affairs department. According to the San Diego County Office of Internal Affairs website, “In cases where the Office of Internal Affairs does not have jurisdiction, it will refer such complaints to other appropriate state and federal investigative agencies.”
Investigations of county employees will consistently be considered “within jurisdiction” of the OIA, therefore not requiring them to be otherwise reported. This operational loophole is what San Diego CityBeat has now used to make the county out to be liars, when in fact such investigations typically become public record once the case is closed. The OIA’s website also states, “Allegations of law enforcement misconduct by County representatives (i.e. Sheriff’s deputies, probation officers, etc.) are investigated by the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board.” The Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board was never referred to in CityBeat’s article, nor has a connection been established between this board and the BJS.
Maintaining a strict policy against rape in prison and detention centers has always been a priority of our government. Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, creating “zero tolerance” regulations for all adult and juvenile detention facilities. This protects both the inmates and the staff. When this legislation was passed, the BJS was appointed to conduct the annual surveys and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was created to “carry out a comprehensive study of sexual abuse in detention and with developing national standards addressing prison rape.” Just Detention International — a human rights organization seeking to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention — also paired with the BJS and NPREC to establish better standards within detention facilities in regards to reporting rape.
From what I can tell, it appears that this obviously flawed legislation has not quite sorted out all of the bugs from its committees and loopholes. It is not county officials misreporting numbers within the juvenile system, but more likely a disorganized miscommunication between the several groups appointed to conduct and report such surveys. While CityBeat brings a valid issue to the table — especially for concerned parents of juveniles in detention — the numbers still don’t quite add up on their end either. The important factor to consider is these are juveniles both the County Probation Department and the Bureau of Justice Statistics are dealing with, and when you’re handling matters pertaining to children, it should be taken more seriously on all ends of the spectrum. Ultimately, a fault-finding mess helps no one. Perhaps county or state officials from another department should look into the reports to add a referee to the playing field of this consequential blame game.
Note: Slight modifications have been made to this column and it is no longer under copyright of The Daily Aztec. All statements made are mine, and mine alone. The article to which I am referring can be found here.