Pennsylvania Juvenile Detention Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Fighting for Survivors Sexually Abused in PA Youth Detention Facilities
Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center (DCJDC) and other juvenile facilities across Pennsylvania have faced years of scrutiny over failures to protect youth inmates from violence and sexual abuse, and several have been subject to sweeping investigations, high-profile lawsuits, and significant settlements that accuse facility operators of creating a culture of unprofessionalism, cover-ups, and lack of oversight that allowed numerous inmates to suffer harm.
Now, a growing number of survivors are stepping forward to file civil lawsuits against the private and public entities that failed to meet their duty of care when operating these detention centers.
If you or someone you love were sexually abused in any juvenile detention or youth treatment center in Pennsylvania, Levy Konigsberg wants to help.
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. We serve survivors statewide and offer FREE and confidential consultations. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.
History of Child Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania Youth Detention Centers
Pennsylvania’s problematic history of sexual abuse within juvenile detention facilities has been documented by high-profile legal filings, criminal indictments, and sweeping investigations.
These records detail a systemic abuse problem in youth detention centers statewide and show that the operators of these facilities – including county court systems, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, and private contractors – enabled a culture of unprofessionalism, secrecy, and cover ups that allowed staff-on-inmate abuse, violence, and misconduct to persist for years.
Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center (DCJDC)
- In December 2022, PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the findings of a grand jury investigation into severe deficiencies in the operation of the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center (DCJDC). The report discussed how DCJDC’s lack of oversight, cover-ups, and systemic failures created a culture of unprofessionalism that allowed for widespread violence and sexual misconduct. The report also included testimony about sexually inappropriate conduct by male staff, including illegal relationships and staff-on-inmate abuse, which went largely unchecked
- In March 2021, two former inmates housed at the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center in Lima filed a lawsuit against Delaware County, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, and the nonprofit contractor Child Guidance Resource Center over claims that they were sexually abused by staff. The lawsuit includes allegations from one survivor who was taken to “private parties” where she was supplied drugs and alcohol and sexually abused, as well as another survivor who was raped by a staff member and threatened to remain silent.
- In March 2021, a County President Judge ordered the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center to be vacated after a report from the Public Defender’s Office detailed allegations of “physical, sexual, and psychological abuse by staff.” The letter, a product of a monthlong investigation by the PD office, included claims of severe staff-on-inmate violence, sexual abuse, egregious harassment and hazing, inappropriate use of solitary confinement, and numerous instances of beatings. The letter also stated that these conditions persisted because of a “culture of secrecy” built on threats, intimidation, and retaliation.
Abraxas Juvenile Center
- In April 2023, Elizabeth Ann Bohler, a former employee at the Abraxas Juvenile Center in Howe Township, was charged with multiple sex crimes after she engaged in a sexual relationship with a minor housed at the facility. According to the criminal complaint, the relationship, which began in late 2022 and continued for several months, involved sexual contact in a closet at the facility, sexual letters and text messages, and Bohler providing contraband to the juvenile.
- In March 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against private prison operator The GEO Group and other defendants on behalf of former inmates who claim that they were physically, mentally, and sexually abused while in custody at the Abraxas Youth and Family Services Center.
Lancaster County Juvenile Detention Center
- In February 2020, Lancaster County agreed to pay $400,000 to settle claims brought by a survivor who was sexually assaulted by former juvenile detention center employee David Stevenson while she was 15-years-old and incarcerated at the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center. Stevenson, who worked at the center from 2016-2017 was charged in 2017 with multiple counts of sexual assault involving five female juveniles at the facility. He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years after pleading guilty.
Cresson Secure Treatment Unit
- In January 2010, a Department of Justice report found that the Cresson Secure Treatment Unit in Cambria County had some of the highest rates of sexual victimization reported by youth inmates in the nation. According to the DOJ report, which surveyed thousands of juvenile inmates in facilities across the country between June 2008 and April 2009, one out of every three youth incarcerated at Cresson reported that they experienced sexual victimization in custody – a rate nearly three times the national average.
- In January 2015, Aimee Bailey pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a youth detainee at the now-closed Northwestern Academy in Excelsior, PA in 2013. Bailey, who now goes by her maiden name of Goepfert, was employed by subcontractor Litton’s Management Service as food service worker in the academy when she engaged in sexual conduct with a teen enrolled in the Academy’s prep program. Northwestern Academy was a private juvenile detention facility in Coal Township operated by Northwestern Human Services (NHS). It was permanently closed in 2016.
Pennsylvania’s Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Statute of Limitations & Pending Law
In Pennsylvania, the current statute of limitations for civil sex abuse claims is the age of adulthood plus 12 years, which means that survivors sexually abused as minors typically have until the age of 30 to file legal action.
As in other states across the country, Pennsylvania’s current statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims has been criticized for barring numerous survivors from seeking justice and compensation for their damages and for failing to recognize accepted research about the considerable difficulties survivors face when processing their abuse and taking steps to come forward. Thanks to new efforts by advocates and lawmakers, however, there are now several pending measures before the Pennsylvania Legislature that seek to expand the rights of child sex abuse survivors.
These groundbreaking measures, which are expected to pass, will create new opportunities for survivors to step forward and obtain long-overdue justice. If passed, these measures would:
- Extend the civil statute of limitations for child victims to age 55.
- Create a temporary two-year window for child sexual abuse survivors to file claims over abuse that occurred at any time in the past.
Levy Konigsberg is closely tracking the proposed sexual abuse measures in Pennsylvania and is actively working with survivors looking for information about filing claims under the new extended statute of limitations or two-year lookback window, should these measures become law.
Learn more about the pending Pennsylvania child sex abuse measures or contact our firm to discuss your legal options under the current statute of limitations or amended laws.
Do I Have a Case?
You may have grounds to file a civil legal action if:
- You were sexually abused by a guard, counselor, or other juvenile detention center staff member.
- The abuse occurred at any juvenile detention or treatment facility in Pennsylvania.
Levy Konigsberg represents survivors in civil actions that aim to hold juvenile detention center operators 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 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
Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806
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 representing survivors in high-stakes sexual abuse lawsuits across the country and have become known for taking on juvenile justice centers, prison systems, and other powerful institutions.
If you have questions about pursuing a civil lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were housed at a juvenile detention center or youth treatment program anywhere in Pennsylvania, 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 (800) 315-3806 or contact us online 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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