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New York Juvenile Detention Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Fighting for Survivors Sexually Abused in NY Youth Detention Facilities

Juvenile detention centers across New York have faced years of scrutiny over failures to protect youth inmates from misconduct and sexual abuse committed by staff. Several facilities, including the Horizon Secure Detention Facility in New York City, have also been subject to sweeping investigations and lawsuits involving dangerous cultures of abuse, cover-ups, and inexcusable oversight issues.

Now, survivors statewide are stepping forward to file civil lawsuits against juvenile detention center operators that failed to protect them from sexual abuse while in custody.

This includes a growing number of former youth inmates who are taking advantage of NYC’s groundbreaking Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law, which created a 2-year window to file claims over sexual abuse and other gender-motivated assaults that occurred at any time in the past. This temporary filing window remains open until March 1, 2025.

If you or someone you love were sexually abused as a youth inmate in any juvenile detention or youth residential facility in New York City or the state of New York, Levy Konigsberg has the experience and resources to help.

Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized trial firm with a legacy of litigating sexual abuse lawsuits against powerful institutions, municipalities, and public and private prison system. We have helped hundreds of formerly incarcerated youth and adults in the fight for justice and are ready to discuss how we may be able to help you. To discuss your rights and legal options, call (914) 875-2013 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

History of Child Sexual Abuse in New York Youth Detention Centers

New York’s problematic history of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse within juvenile detention facilities has been documented through years of legal filings, criminal arrests, public settlements, and sweeping investigations.

These records detail a systemic abuse problem that permeates throughout secure, specialized secure, and non-secure detention centers statewide, including the Horizon Juvenile Detention Center in New York City, which has been mired in years of scrutiny over alarming patterns of abuse and misconduct committed by staff.

The records also show that operators of these facilities, including the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the NYS Office of Children and Family Services’ Bureau of Detention Services, and various county court systems and private contractors, overwhelmingly failed to protect youth inmates by enabling cultures of misconduct that allowed staff-on-inmate abuse to persist for years.

Examples include:

Spofford Juvenile Detention Center

  • In March 2011, the City of New York closed the Spofford Juvenile Center. Spofford, which had been in operation in the Bronx for over 50 years and was renamed the Bridges Juvenile Center in 1999, had been subject to numerous abuse and misconduct allegations, beginning with a string of abuse scandals in the 1960s that compelled the city to assume control of the facility from a local non-profit operator and decades of allegations leading up to its closure.
  • Spofford’s documented record of sexual abuse and misconduct dates back decades, and includes the 1978 arrest of former Guard Walter Long for the rape of a 14-year-old inmate, the 1996 termination of a counselor who allegedly shackled and molested a 15-year-old inmate, 48 child abuse claims against facility employees in 1997 alone that included the conviction of a counselor who nearly beat an inmate to death, and countless other reports of sexual brutality, physical violence, mass escapes, and at least one staff-run drug cartel and prostitution ring. In 1978, then-mayor Ed Koch called Spofford a “case study in failure.”

Horizon Juvenile Detention Center

  • In 2023, the Horizon Juvenile Detention Center was the subject of a sweeping Gothamist report that chronicled alarming misconduct among facility staff. According to the report, a secret network of Youth Development Specialists, managers, kitchen staff and other facility employees regularly furnished youth inmates with cash, weapons, drugs, and other contraband, sometimes in exchange for sexual acts.
  • In 2018, federal prosecutors launched an investigation into staff-on-inmate sexual abuse at Horizon. The inquiry was prompted by a 2015 report that found ACS workers at Horizon failed to report known abusers and routinely faced allegations of grooming inmates by providing contraband or special treatment in exchange for sexual favors or by initiating disciplinary action when inmates resisted their sexual advances.
  • In addition to high-profile investigations, years of arrests, lawsuits, and settlements have provided further insight into Horizon’s staff-on-inmate sexual abuse problem. This includes the April 2023 arrest of former ACS staffer Natasha Robinson, who was caught on surveillance footage engaging in sexual conduct with a youth inmate, a 2019 federal lawsuit that accused former counselor Nathalie Medford of repeated sexual abuse, and a settlement paid by New York City over claims that youth inmates were turned into “sex slaves” by Horizon staff and that ACS employees turned a blind eye to abuse.

Crossroads Juvenile Center

  • In 2015, an Administrative Law Judge recommended the termination of Victor Silva, a former counselor at the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brooklyn, after finding that he physically beat a youth inmate and placed him in an impermissible chokehold. Silva was also found to have made a false, misleading, and deceptive incident report.
  • In addition to claims of physical abuse, former youth inmates and advocates have raised allegations of sexual abuse by staff at Crossroads for years. As in the case of Silva, reports have also claimed that staff maintained a culture of secrecy and cover ups to conceal abuse and protect themselves and fellow employees.

Brentwood Residential Center for Girls

  • In December 2023, Ovzie Cannon pleaded guilty to third-degree rape, criminal sexual act, and endangering the welfare of a child while working at the Brentwood Residential Center for Girls, which is operated by the NY State Office of Children and Family Services. Cannon, who worked at the Dix Hills, Long Island facility as a youth support specialist, raped a 15-year-old inmate on multiple occasions after providing her with marijuana edibles in January and February 2023.

Children’s Village

  • In 2020, nearly a dozen lawsuits were filed by former youth who claimed that they were sexually abused by staff while housed the Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry. The lawsuits detail similar claims of sexual abuse committed by staff during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and accuses the Children’s Village, a nonprofit organization, of negligently failing to supervise staff and employing officials who used their authority to discourage or prevent survivors from disclosing allegations of abuse.

Survivors of NY Juvenile Detention Center Abuse May Be Eligible to File Claims Under NY Law

New York has been a frontrunner in passing legislation that makes it easier for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to step forward and seek the compensation they deserve.

These laws are based on accepted research that show survivors can take years or decades to process their abuse and understand its connection to lasting consequences they’ve suffered as a result, such as addiction, incarceration as adults, relationship issues, and other mental health problems. They are also intended to rectify some of the legal barriers (such as short statutes of limitations) which have historically prevented survivors from being able to pursue justice in the civil legal system.

Today, victims who were sexually abused as minors in secure, specialized secure, and non-secure youth residential facilities across New York may have options to file civil claims and obtain justice. For example:

  • New York State Civil Statute of Limitations. In 2019, lawmakers passed the New York Child Victims Act, a landmark law that extended the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases from 21 to 55. This means that under current New York law, survivors who were sexually abused when they were under the age of 18 have until age 55 to sue the parties responsible for their abuse. This includes entities such as the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, municipalities, and private corporations that operate juvenile detention facilities.
  • NYC Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law. The Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law (GMVPL) allows victims of sexual assaults that occurred in NYC to file civil lawsuits against abusers and responsible institutions. A recent amendment of the law also created a temporary two-year window for survivors to file claims over abuse that occurred at any time in the past. This window opened on March 1, 2023 and will close on March 1, 2025.

At Levy Konigsberg, our award-winning attorneys have earned a reputation for litigating sexual abuse claims brought under these and other survivor-friendly New York laws. This includes hundreds of lawsuits filed by our firm on behalf of survivors who were abused in New York women’s prisons and by individuals employed by hospitals, schools, and other institutions.

Backed by this insight, we can evaluate your potential claim and explain your rights and options, including your eligibility to bring a claim over abuse that occurred years or decades ago under NYC’s Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law.

Learn more on our blog: What is the Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law?

Do I Have a Case?

Under New York law, minors and youth inmates are legally incapable of consenting to sexual acts. This means that it is a crime for counselors, guards, and other staff employed in youth detention facilities to engage in any type of sexual contact with youth inmates and that doing so constitutes an assault.

As such, you may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit if:

  • You were sexually abused/assaulted by counselor, guard, or other juvenile detention staff member.
  • The abuse occurred at any secure/specialized secure or non-secure youth facility operated by the state of New York, the City of New York, or any other public or private entity.

At Levy Konigsberg, the juvenile detention sexual abuse cases we handle focus on holding juvenile facility operators such as the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) accountable for failures to stop abusive staff and protect youth inmates. As civil lawsuits, these claims are separate from any criminal proceedings that may arise from abuse and focus instead on financial liability 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 Sexual Abuse Claims

Sexual abuse lawsuits are powerful tools for obtaining justice and holding institutions accountable. They are also a vital means for survivors to recover financial compensation for the harm and losses caused by their abuse.

Survivors in sexual abuse lawsuits may be able to recover compensation for:

  • 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

Call For a FREE Consultation: (914) 875-2013

Levy Konigsberg has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including millions of dollars in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors seek justice and have the resources and experience they need to fight back against powerful institutions.

If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were a juvenile housed at a youth detention center anywhere in New York, we want to help. We serve survivors statewide and work on contingency, which means there’s no cost to hire and no fee unless we win.

Call (914) 875-2013 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

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