Cheltenham Youth Detention Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Fighting for Survivors of Staff-on-Inmate Abuse

If you were sexually abused while housed at the Cheltenham Youth Detention Center in Cheltenham, Maryland, you may have grounds to pursue legal action and a financial recovery of your damages.

Cheltenham Youth Detention Center (formerly known as the Cheltenham Youth Facility) has been embroiled in years of scrutiny over claims that numerous male and female juveniles were sexually abused by staff members while in custody.

Now, thanks to a recently passed Maryland law that creates new opportunities for child sex abuse survivors to seek justice, Cheltenham is facing renewed allegations over supervisory failures that enabled a culture of misconduct, cover-ups, and rampant abuse that persisted for decades.

Levy Konigsberg is a top-rated trial practice with a legacy of litigating sexual abuse lawsuits for survivors across Maryland and the nation. We’re representing a growing number of men and women who were sexually abused while incarcerated at Cheltenham Youth Facility and other Maryland juvenile detention centers, and are available to help survivors explore their rights under Maryland’s Child Victims Act.

If you have questions about pursuing a Cheltenham Youth Detention Center sexual abuse lawsuit, we want to help. Call or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

Maryland Child Victims Act Opens Door for Cheltenham Sex Abuse Survivors

The Maryland Child Victims Act is groundbreaking legislation signed into law in April 2023.

The Act, which was passed in response to growing research about the difficulties sex abuse survivors face when processing their abuse and taking steps to speak out, greatly expands the rights of individuals who were sexually abused as minors by providing them with more time and new opportunities to file claims. The law has two key components:

  • The CVA eliminates the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits based on child sexual abuse, which means that there is no deadline by which survivors must initiate legal action.
  • The CVA creates an unlimited lookback period that allows child sexual abuse survivors to file lawsuits over abuse that occurred at any time in the past, even if such claims were barred by the previous statute of limitations.

The Child Victims Act went into effect on October 1, 2023, and applies to both new cases of abuse and abuse that occurred years or decades in the past.

At Levy Konigsberg, our award-winning attorneys are helping a growing number of survivors in Maryland, including former Cheltenham Youth Facility inmates who were sexually abused in custody, learn more about their rights and options under Maryland’s Child Victims Act. If you have questions about a potential case and whether you can file under current Maryland’s new law, we want to help.

History of Abuse at Cheltenham Youth Detention Center

Cheltenham Youth Detention Center is a juvenile detention facility located in Cheltenham, Maryland. As a secure detention facility, Cheltenham houses male and female youth who are awaiting court hearings or placement in a treatment facility. It primarily serves youth from Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Montgomery, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties.

In operation since 1870, Cheltenham has been previously known as the Cheltenham School for Boys and the Boys’ Village of Maryland. It was known as the Cheltenham Youth Facility from 1992 until 2016, when the new facility opened as Cheltenham Youth Detention Center.

Throughout its history, Cheltenham’s legacy of abuse and misconduct has been the subject of sweeping investigations, civil lawsuits, and criminal cases.

These legal and investigative matters have spanned decades and have revealed evidence of systemic abuse and misconduct within the facility, including numerous instances and reports of sexual abuse.In addition to rampant physical, mental, and sexual abuse, these cases also detail the failures of Cheltenham officials and the entities responsible for its operation in creating a culture of secrecy and cover-ups that allowed abuse to persist for years. Some examples include:

  • In April 2004, an investigation from the DOJ’s Civil Rights division revealed major deficiencies in harm protection measures at Cheltenham Youth Facility, as well as a “deeply disturbing degree” of physical abuse by staff, violence among youth, excessive use of disciplinary isolation, and numerous instances of sexual misconduct and inappropriate staff-youth relationships. The report also noted that despite previous cases of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse, Cheltenham had failed to institute adequate measures to prevent incidents.
  • In April 2002, Carolyn Diane Cooley was suspended by the U.S. DOJ and charged with multiple sex crimes after authorities discovered that she had engaged in a weeks-long relationship with a teen housed at Cheltenham. Cooley had worked as a guard at the Cheltenham facility.
  • In February 2001, a coalition of more than a dozen advocacy groups announced a campaign to close Cheltenham Youth Facility over systemic violence and sexual abuse within the facility. The campaign’s efforts were prompted by longstanding criticism of Cheltenham, including the efforts of a prominent national advocacy group that called Cheltenham one of the worst juvenile facilities in the country in 1995.
  • In December 1999, state juvenile justice officials acknowledged that they had fired seven employees for assaulting youth inmates at Cheltenham in the past year. The firings, as well as reports of more than 200 suicide-related incidents and dozens of sexual assaults by guards, were reported after the creation of task force to monitor conditions in the facility.
  • In July 1999, Cheltenham Superintendent Carlton Richardson was demoted and transferred to another facility after it was discovered that a counselor under his supervision impregnated a teen housed at the facility.
  • In October 1991, Jean Castle was indicted on charges that he sexually abused 16 boys while employed as a nurse at the facility. Castle worked at the facility for under two weeks, between May and June 1991, before he was arrested and initially charged with molesting three youth.
  • In February 1991, Terry Kevin Ward was found guilty of child sex abuse after he sexually assaulted a youth inmate at Cheltenham (then called the Boys Village of Maryland) while he was a counselor at the facility. Ward was later charged with other sex crimes in 1993 after he molested a teen while coaching baseball with the Columbia Youth Baseball Association.

Do I Have a Case?

You may have grounds to file a Cheltenham Youth Facility sexual abuse lawsuit if:

  • You were sexually abused by counselor, supervisor, or other facility staff member.
  • The abuse occurred at Cheltenham at any time in the past.

At Levy Konigsberg, we support survivors in civil actions that aim to hold the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and other responsible entities accountable for their failures to stop abusive staff members and protect young inmates.

As civil claims, these cases are separate from any criminal proceedings that may arise from abuse and focus instead on holding institutions liable for damages. This means you may still have a claim even if:

  • Your abuser is no longer alive.
  • Your abuser was never charged or convicted of a crime.

Recoverable Damages in Maryland Juvenile Center Sexual Abuse Claims

In addition to providing accountability and a sense of justice, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover financial compensation for their damages, which may include:

  • Past medical and mental health expenses
  • Future mental health expenses, including therapy, medications, etc.
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish and psychological harm
  • Lost income
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

Under the Maryland Child Victims Act, the statutory cap on civil damages for child sexual abuse was increased. Under the law, survivors can recover up to $1.5 million in non-economic damages, which includes things like emotional anguish and pain and suffering, when filing against a private institution, and up to $890,000 in non-economic damages against public and government entities. The cap applies to each incident of abuse and no cap is placed on economic or punitive damages.

Our Maryland juvenile center sexual abuse attorneys at Levy Konigsberg know that child sexual abuse has profound and lifelong consequences. We can help you evaluate the potential value of your claim and how we can fight for the maximum recovery possible.

Call For a FREE Consultation:

Levy Konigsberg is a top-rated trial practice that’s recovered over $3 billion in compensation for clients. Led by award-winning lawyers, we’ve built a legacy for litigating high-stakes sexual abuse lawsuits on behalf of survivors across Maryland and the U.S., and for our ability to take on powerful private and public institutions that failed to protect victims.

  • Our Maryland Office: 145 West Ostend Street, Suite 600 Baltimore, MD 21230

If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were a minor or young adult housed at Cheltenham or another Maryland juvenile detention center, we want to help. We serve survivors statewide and work on contingency, which means there’s no cost to hire our team and no fee unless we win.

Call for a FREE and confidential consultation.


Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.


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