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Staff to OH youth prisons after sex assault report

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Prompted by a federal report on sexual assaults of incarcerated young people, Ohio is sending employees to its four juvenile corrections facilities to talk with youth and reiterate their options for reporting assaults and other concerns.

Incarcerated young people responded anonymously to survey questions about unwanted sexual activity involving other inmates and facility employees, and the U.S. Justice Department report put Ohio among states with the highest sexual-assault rates, The Columbus Dispatch ( ) reported.

The so-called "climate assessors" being sent to the facilities will report to a task force created by Gov. John Kasich after the federal report. The move comes months after a federal judge ended most court-ordered monitoring of Ohio's youth prison system that stemmed from an earlier lawsuit settlement.

"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to protect our youth," Ohio Department of Youth Services spokeswoman Kim Parsell said. "We are gathering information, reaching out to youth. We want them to be free to let us know what's going on."

An assessor already is in Circleville, and the other three assessors will be sent in the next few weeks, Parsell said in an interview Tuesday.

Nearly 10 percent of young people in state and private facilities said they'd been sexually assault at least once last year. The Circleville facility had the second-highest sexual-assault rate in the country at about 30 percent. The rates were about 23 percent at Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility and nearly 20 percent at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility.

A monitor appointed by the U.S. District Court in Columbus questions whether the report overestimated such assault cases.

"Something of that proportion would have come to our attention, and it just did not," the monitor, Will Harrell, told the newspaper.

Youth Services records showed 29 sexual assaults were reported last year, and two were substantiated. Those two didn't involve staff.

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