The national rate was 9.5 percent.
Federal researchers found that 15.8 percent of the 497 juveniles in Georgia’s criminal justice system who were surveyed had had a sexual encounter with a staff member, which is a felony even if it is deemed consensual. Just at the four Georgia facilities cited among the worst in the nation, nearly 300 boys reported sexual abuse last year.
A 2003 federal law — the Prison Rape Elimination Act — requires the Justice Department to produce an annual report on sexual assaults inside the nation’s prisons. The study released Thursday was the second one focused on juvenile facilities.
Beck, the author of the federal report, said researchers would next try to determine why some states had far more reports of sexual abuse than others.
The state Department of Juvenile Justice suggested, however, that Georgia’s numbers were high because the agency had encouraged juvenile offenders to report their experiences in the survey.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy in Georgia,” Niles said.
Niles said he would ask his department’s advisory committee on the federal law to determine why such a high percentage of juveniles in Georgia’s institutions reported inappropriate sexual contact with staff.
“Even though the report is based on anonymous surveys,” Niles said, “I want the committee to analyze the report for any significant data (that) could help lead to arrests and convictions for staff sexual misconduct.”