A nightmare has unfolded in Lima, Pennsylvania, at the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center, as serious allegations were made against the staff. The lawsuit, filed by two young people who were held at the facility, detailed accusations of rape, sexual abuse, and other horrifying abuses that allegedly has been happening for years in plain sight.
The detention facility has been temporarily shut down due to the lawsuit’s explicit description of the sexual, physical, and psychological abuse allegations that were filed against county and state agencies on Wednesday. According to the lawsuit affidavit, one of the girls said that the facility guards took her to “private parties” where she was given alcohol and drugs and also sexually abused at 16 years old. Another plaintiff in the lawsuit said that he was also raped by a staff member who threatened that if the victim told anyone, “he would kill him and his entire family.”
Delaware County Juvenile Detention Justice Center Shut Down on Allegations of Abuse
The lawsuit also describes abuses that had been happening for years, with staff knowledge, and how they failed to intervene or actually helped cover up the crimes. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it also named the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which was responsible for the center’s oversight, and the nonprofit Child Guidance Resource Center (CGRC), the contractor who reported $25 million in revenue from social services contracts in 2019.
A spokesperson for the DHS explained how an investigation is ongoing, but no licensing action has been taken, saying, “This comprehensive investigation will include, but not be limited to, interviews with youth that formerly were placed at the facility, interviews with current and former staff of the facility, a review of past incidents, security tapes, and ChildLine complaints that are still available going back at least five years.”
Current and former DGRC employees were among whistleblowers who reported, “failings including the use of prolonged seclusion, violent assaults that left kids bruised and battered, and a culture of pressuring staff to cover up the incidents,” and after the Delaware County Defender presented the allegations to County President Judge Kevin Kelly, the facility was ordered closed on March 12.
Whistleblowers Detail Alleged Abuse at Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center
One out the many disturbing allegations that the lawsuit detailed, including mistreating some of the young people suffering from serious mental illnesses. One of these victims was locked in a room while covered in feces without access to water for days, and another was made to drink from a toilet when she got thirsty after attempting suicide by swallowing clothing.
Although the victims’ names were not disclosed, another male victim said he was held in isolation for four days, choked until he nearly passed out, and was repeatedly beaten, eventually causing his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another female said that five guards had fed her and another female victim Xanax, alcohol, and marijuana at these “private parties,” before raping them. She also alleged that one of the guards obtained her cell phone number years after she had left the detention center, sending her unwanted sexual and harassing messages. And another staff member had proposed her teenage daughter to “link up” on Instagram.
The center had housed 782 kids between 2019 and 2020, but the incidents were described to have been happening over a span of about 15 years, according to lawyer Dan McGarrigle, who filed the suit along with Laffey, Bucci & Kent. He said, “The facts that I’ve heard from my two current clients were shocking to me after almost 20 years handling serious criminal cases, and I thought there wasn’t much that would shock me anymore.”
Apparently, this isn’t the first lawsuit filed towards the detention facility’s staff. Back in 2012, a boy who had told a social worker about the mistreatment was slammed into the ground by a staffer who had overheard the conversation. The staffer then tried to smash the boy’s head against a window and had punched him in the face, giving him a bloody nose. However, the jury didn’t find the employee guilty.