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Spofford Juvenile Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Fighting for Survivors Sexually Abused at Spofford / Bridges Juvenile Center

The now-closed Spofford Juvenile Center, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center from 1999-2011, was for decades known as New York City’s most troubling juvenile detention facility. Plagued by rampant sexual abuse, physical violence, and staff misconduct, the facility now serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a juvenile detention system in disrepair.

And while the suffering and scandals surrounding Spofford are now a part of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services’ checkered history, they remain a reality for countless survivors who were sexually abused by guards, counselors, and other staff while in custody.

Fortunately, recent changes in New York law have led a growing number of survivors abused at Spofford/Bridges to step forward and seek accountability from the City. If you were sexually abused by a staff member while housed at the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center at any time in the past, you may have grounds to pursue a financial recovery of your damages under these groundbreaking laws.

Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized trial firm with a legacy of litigating sexual abuse powerful institutions, municipalities, and public and private prison systems. We have helped hundreds of formerly incarcerated youth and adults in the fight for justice and are ready to discuss how we can help you. To discuss your rights and legal options, call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

History of Sexual Abuse at Spofford Juvenile Center

The Spofford Juvenile Center was a juvenile detention facility located in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx. Operated for most of its tenure by the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice (now the NYC Administration for Children’s Services), it served as the city’s only secure detention facility for housing adjudicated youth and youth awaiting trials prior to the opening of the Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx and the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brooklyn in 1998.

In 1999, Spofford was renamed and transformed into the Bridges Juvenile Center, which primarily housed pre-adjudicated youth. Despite the change, Spofford continued to build upon its reputation as the city’s harshest and most scandal-plagued juvenile detention center.

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, Spofford has faced innumerable allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct, physical violence, mass escapes, and at least one large-scale, staff-run drug cartel and prostitution ring. These allegations persisted during its years of operation as the Bridges Juvenile Center before the location was finally shuttered for good in 2011.

Spofford’s record of sexual abuse and misconduct is documented by high-profile scandals, legal filings, and sweeping investigations that date back decades. Some examples include:

  • In November 1969, NY Senator John Dunne called for a meeting with then NYC Mayor John Lindsay to discuss “horrible” conditions at Spofford and other juvenile detention facilities. Senator Dunne later spearheaded efforts to investigate sexual abuse, staff brutality, and drug smuggling at Spofford that persisted even after the City’s juvenile justice department took control of the facility.
  • In July 1970, NYC judges ordered an investigation into conditions at Spofford following charges of drug trafficking and sexual abuse against staff. In August of the same year, a city council member called for the resignation of several officials in the city’s juvenile justice system after visiting Spofford and witnessing what he called “filth and degradation.” The same council member also conducted over 400 hours of interviews with youth inmates, Spofford staff, and childcare experts, and subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging rampant sexual misconduct, physical brutality, and drug trafficking at the juvenile center.
  • In February 1978, a Walter Long, a former guard at Spofford Juvenile Center, was arrested in connection to the rape of a 14-year-old detainee by two other inmates. Authorities alleged that Long “locked the doors for privacy” and walked away to allow the rape to continue.
  • In 1996, a counselor at Spofford was terminated for molesting a 15-year-old female inmate after shackling her hands and feet. The following year, during which nearly 50 child abuse complaints were brought against Spofford employees, a counselor was convicted of attempted assault after nearly beating a male detainee to death.
  • In June 2002, Barrett Walters, a former NYC DJJ counselor employed at Bridges Juvenile Center (formerly known as Spofford) was indicted on charges that he sexually abused a 16-year-old male detainee and endangered the welfare of another teen inmate. According to the criminal complaint, Walters coerced one inmate to strip while he watched in exchange for the drug ecstasy and forcibly grabbed another inmate’s genitals. Walters had been employed by the NYC DJJ since January 2001.
  • In March 2011, after 54 years in operation, Spofford (then operating as Bridges Juvenile Center) was closed. At the time of its closure, Spofford/Bridges was the City’s oldest and most infamous juvenile detention center, and had cultivated a reputation for rampant sexual abuse, violence, misconduct, and alarming conditions.

Spofford’s damning history shows that the NYC ACS (formerly the NYC DJJ), overwhelmingly failed to protect youth inmates by enabling a culture of misconduct and secrecy that allowed staff-on-inmate abuse to persist for years.

Fortunately, former youth inmates who were sexually abused at Spofford may now be able to take advantage of new legal opportunities to hold the City accountable.

At Levy Konigsberg, we specialize in helping sexual abuse survivors in civil legal actions that seek accountability and compensation and have extensive experience litigating sex abuse claims against public and private prison and juvenile justice systems across New York and the nation. We’re available to discuss your potential case and whether you can take legal action.

Spofford Sexual Abuse Survivors Can Seek Justice Under NY Law

New York has led the nation 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 studies that show survivors can take years or decades to process their abuse and its lasting consequences, including 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 while housed in Spofford Juvenile Center / Bridges Juvenile Center may have grounds to file civil claims and obtain justice under New York’s expanded civil statute of limitations or the recently enacted NYC Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law, which creates a temporary filing window for survivors abused at any time in the past.

  • 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.
  • 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 (and whose statute of limitations were not already expired as of 2019) have until age 55 to sue the parties responsible for their abuse. This includes entities such as the New York City Administration of Children’s Services. This is another potential avenue for some victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York to still be able to file a lawsuit, even if the abuse occurred many years ago.

Our sexual abuse team at Levy Konigsberg has cultivated a reputation for litigating 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.

Our work in this area has been profiled widely in the media, including a Gothamist article and NY Daily News cover story about our claims against the New York State prison system, an article in The Baltimore Sun about our work fighting for inmates sexually abused at a Youth Detention Center in Cheltenham, MD, and many more.

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. Given the time limits and the fact that the GMVPL temporary filing window closes in 2025, we encourage survivors with potential cases to reach out to our team as soon as possible.

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

Do I Have a Case?

In New York, minors and youth inmates cannot legally consent to sexual acts, including sexual acts with adult staff who are tasked with overseeing their custody and care. This means that any type of sexual contact between youth inmates and juvenile detention center staff constitutes an assault.

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

  • You experienced any form of sexual contact or harassment from a counselor, guard, or other staff member.
  • The abuse occurred at Spofford Juvenile Center / Bridges Juvenile Center at any time in the past.

At Levy Konigsberg, we represent survivors of juvenile detention sexual abuse in civil lawsuits that are separate and distinct from any criminal proceedings.

As civil claims, these lawsuits focus on holding responsible entities, such as the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), liable for damages suffered by victims, rather than making any determinations about an alleged abuser’s criminal guilt. They also employ a lower burden of proof than what is used in criminal courts.

This means that you may still have a claim even if:

  • Your abuser was never charged with a crime.
  • Your abuser was never convicted / was found Not Guilty in criminal court.
  • Your abuser is no longer alive.

Damages Survivors Can Recover in Sexual Abuse Claims

Survivors who prevail in their sexual abuse claims can recover financial compensation for the harm and losses they suffered because of their abuse. This may include compensation for:

  • Past medical and mental health expenses
  • Future expenses for therapy, medications, and mental health care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish and psychological harm
  • Lost earnings
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806

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 Spofford Juvenile Center / Bridges Juvenile Center, we want to help.

Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

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