MARYLAND JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER SEXUAL ABUSE LAWSUITS
Fighting for Youth and Young Adult Survivors
Juvenile detention facilities in Maryland has the highest rate of sexual abuse nationwide, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.
This alarmingly high rate of abuse indicates that detention facilities across the state have failed to protect youth inmates from sexual abuse, and that they may be liable for the damages suffered by survivors with potential claims.
Levy Konigsberg is an award-winning trial practice known nationally for litigating sexual abuse lawsuits against powerful institutions, municipalities, and public and private prison systems. If you were sexually abused while housed at any juvenile detention center in Maryland, we want to help. Victims of Maryland juvenile hall sex abuse—and the families that suffered with them — should have every opportunity to be heard in court for justice and potential compensation.
Levy Konigsberg is investigating a growing number of claims from survivors who were sexually abused at juvenile detention and youth justice facilities across Maryland. To speak with an attorney during a FREE and confidential consultation, call (301) 450-8144 or contact us online.
New Maryland Law Opens the Door for Juvenile Detention Center Sex Abuse Survivors
Maryland has been a frontrunner in passing legislation that greatly expands the rights of sexual abuse survivors – and especially survivors of child sexual abuse.
Thanks to the Child Victims Act, which was signed into law in April 2023 by Governor Wes Moore, survivors who were sexually abused as minors in Maryland now have unprecedented opportunities to pursue justice against their abusers and any institutions that failed to protect them.
Here are some key details about Child Victims Act of 2023:
- 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 prison and juvenile detention systems with long histories of child sexual abuse are seeing a growing number claims brought by survivors abused years and decades ago.
At Levy Konigsberg, our award-winning attorneys are helping a growing number of survivors in Maryland 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 a civil lawsuit, we’re available to help.
What Is Considered Sexual Abuse in Maryland Juvenile Detention Centers?
Sexual abuse in the context of Maryland juvenile detention centers refers to any sexual contact involving a minor that is non-consensual or otherwise inappropriate due to the minor's age and inability to provide legal consent. Any sexual activity involving a staff member, another detainee, or any individual within the facility. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors that violate the rights and well-being of the detained individuals.
In Maryland, child sexual abuse within juvenile detention centers can include:
Sexual Contact: Any form of touching or physical contact of a sexual nature with a minor, even if it doesn't involve penetration, can be considered child sexual abuse.
Sexual Harassment: Unwanted sexual advances, comments, or requests for sexual favors that create a hostile or intimidating environment within the facility can constitute sexual abuse.
Sexual Assault and Rape: Engaging in sexual intercourse or penetration of any kind with a minor is considered child sexual abuse, even if the minor may have appeared to consent or even if there's a minimal age difference.
Grooming: Actions taken by an adult with the intent to gain a child's trust and manipulate them into engaging in sexual activity. This can involve building a relationship of trust over time and exploiting the child's vulnerability.
Coercion and Threats: Using threats, intimidation, or manipulation to force a detainee into engaging in sexual activity against their will is child sexual abuse.
Exhibitionism and Voyeurism Involving Minors: Forcing a minor to watch sexual acts or exposing oneself to a minor can be considered child sexual abuse.
Exploitation: Taking advantage of a detainee's vulnerability or offering privileges, favors, or benefits in exchange for sexual activity is considered sexual exploitation.
Indecent Exposure to Minors: Engaging in any form of indecent exposure in the presence of a minor is considered child sexual abuse.
Inappropriate Relationships: Any inappropriate romantic or sexual relationship between staff members and detainees who are minors.
Report Highlights Scope of Sexual Abuse in Maryland Juvenile Detention Centers
Juvenile detention centers in Maryland have struggled for decades with alarmingly high rates of sexual abuse, including both staff-on-inmate abuse and inmate-on-inmate abuse.
The scope of the detention center abuse problem was most notably documented in a government study released by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010. The report reviewed incidents of sexual victimization – classified as any sexual activity with staff and forced sexual activity with another youth – at nearly 200 juvenile detention facilities across the country.
Here are some key facts from the report:
- While the DOJ found that roughly 12% of youths held in private, state-operated, or local facilities reported some type of sexual victimization, it found much higher rates of sexual abuse within Maryland juvenile detention centers.
- Backbone Mountain Youth Center in Swanton, Maryland was identified in the report as having the highest rate of abuse among any surveyed juvenile detention facility in the nation. According to the DOJ, over 36% of youths at Backbone Mountain reported that they were sexually victimized in custody – three times the national average.
The shockingly high rate of abuse at Backbone Mountain Youth Center and other juvenile detention facilities across the state show that both private and public operators of these facilities routinely failed to properly investigate complaints, report staff who were known abusers, and protect victims.
Based on these findings and Maryland’s Child Victim Act, survivors abused at Maryland juvenile detention facilities in the past are now stepping forward to seek justice and hold the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and other facility operators accountable.
Maryland Juvenile Detention Facilities with Documented History of Sexual Abuse Incidents
- Backbone Mountain Youth Center
- Western Maryland Children's Center
- Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center
- Green Ridge Youth Center
- Lower Eastern Shore Children's Center
- Victor Cullen Center
- Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School & Structured Shelter Care Program
- Cheltenham Youth Detention Center
- Garrett Children's Center (closed)
- Alfred D. Noyes Children's Center (closed)
- Thomas J.S. Waxter Children's Center (closed)
- Mountain View (closed)
Montrose School (closed)
- Maple Run Youth Center (closed)
Juvenile Center Sexual Abuse Cases in the News
Sexual Abuse at Maryland Juvenile Detention, Treatment and Residential Facilities have been documented in numerous news reports:
Lower Eastern Shore Children’s Center: In the Wicomico County Circuit Court on October 5th, 2021, a juvenile corrections officer, Carlos Thompson, aged 33 and residing in Salisbury, was formally charged with sex offenses and assault. The inquiry focused on allegations that a 15-year-old female had engaged in sexual activity with Thompson at his residence earlier in the same month.
Police records reveal that the victim underwent a forensic interview in the presence of a child protective services worker and a Salisbury detective on September 21. During this interview, she disclosed her initial encounter with Thompson, which occurred while she was detained at the Lower Eastern Shore Children’s Center in Salisbury, where Thompson works as a corrections officer. Furthermore, the victim alleged that Thompson had initiated contact with her on Facebook in July, leading to daily interactions between them that eventually progressed to texting.
Victor Cullen Center: March 26th, 2021, a woman from the Hagerstown area was charged of sexually abusing a minor during her employment at the Victor Cullen Center last year. The young boy, who had been released from the center on March 23, 2020, was later contacted by a staff member through social media, according to the statement. The minor disclosed to investigators that he was picked up twice from his home by the staff member, after which they engaged in sexual intercourse at a different location. The victim stated that the abuse had commenced before his release from the Victor Cullen Center.
New Directions Program, Baltimore County: On October 10th, 2009 a 17-year-old individual managed to escape from a juvenile treatment program in Baltimore County during a group outing to the cinema. The teenager spent the night at the residence of a female counselor from the facility, where they engaged in sexual activity, as disclosed by the police on Thursday. Law enforcement authorities arrested the youth on Wednesday in Laurel, Delaware. It's important to note that, although the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse in Maryland is 16, it is considered a crime for an adult to engage in sexual activity with a minor under their care or custody.
Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School: On March 30th, 2005 according to the police, a 17-year-old male resident of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School was subjected to a sexual assault this week by another youth residing there. This incident occurred less than a month after the state took control of the troubled juvenile detention center with the aim of restoring a "safe and secure" environment. The assault took place in the victim's room within the dormitory-like Mandela unit of the Baltimore County facility around noon on Monday, as explained by Maj. Greg Shipley, a spokesperson for the state police. During the assault, the 17-year-old was sexually assaulted with a pillow placed over his face.
An independent monitor's report in 2003 revealed over 20 suspected cases of child abuse and neglect at Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County in the current year. These cases include allegations of staff engaging in sexual activity with juveniles and bringing alcohol and explicit materials into the juvenile detention center. On February 7th, a missing youth was located following a car accident in Anne Arundel County. The vehicle involved was registered to a female staff member, who was subsequently terminated and accused of having sexual involvement with the teenager.
Cheltenham Youth Facility: On April 9th, 2004 an investigation into the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Cheltenham, Maryland, and the Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School in Baltimore, Maryland revealed several instances of misconduct at both institutions. These incidents involved female staff members who were found to have inappropriate relationships with male youth residents as young as 14 years old. For instance, during an inquiry at the Charles H. Hickey School in June 2003, a staff member confessed to sexually abusing another young resident. In April 2002, a staff member at Cheltenham resigned after it was discovered that she had engaged in sexual relations with a youth resident.
On April 12th, 2002 authorities charged a 44-year-old guard at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy under her care. Carolyn Diane Cooley from Clinton was suspended by the Department of Juvenile Justice on Monday following the teen's report of a weeks-long relationship with her. Maryland State Police arrested Cooley on Tuesday, and the charges include child abuse by a custodian, a third-degree sex offense, a fourth-degree sex offense, and engaging in sexual activity with a juvenile as a correctional employee, as indicated in the charging documents.
In an article dated February 23, 2001, juvenile justice advocates announced a campaign to close Cheltenham, Maryland's notorious juvenile detention facility. The advocates cited outbreaks of violence, including the rape of a youth, untrained staff, and a lack of counseling as reasons for their call to action. Despite longstanding criticism dating back to 1995, a coalition of advocates believed the time was right for legislators and juvenile justice officials to act. Department of Juvenile Justice officials acknowledged the problems but indicated that immediate closure was not possible due to the new facility's capacity limitations. The advocates highlighted a rape incident as a compelling reason for the facility's immediate closure, emphasizing issues of overcrowding, untrained staff, and a culture of violence.
The Montrose School: According to a published report, in May 1986, a class action was filed against the State regarding abuse of children at the Montrose School (a juvenile detention facility that closed in 1988), alleging “systematic” mistreatment by staff, including allowing an eleven-year-old child to be raped repeatedly by older boys at the facility.
Do I Have a Case?
You may have grounds to file a civil legal action against a Maryland juvenile detention center if:
- You were sexually abused by counselor, supervisor, or other juvenile detention center staff member.
- The abuse occurred at any juvenile detention facility in Maryland 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: (301) 450-8144
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.
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Baltimore, MD 21230
If you have questions about pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were a minor or young adult housed at a juvenile detention center anywhere in Maryland, 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 (301) 450-8144 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.
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