Vermont Juvenile Detention Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Fighting for Survivors Sexually Abused at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center and Other Detention Facilities
If you were sexually abused at a juvenile detention facility or other jail or prison housing youth inmates in Vermont, you may be entitled to compensation.
Vermont’s juvenile justice system has been the subject of years of scrutiny over poor conditions, maltreatment, and staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. As the record shows, the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) routinely failed to protect youth inmates from abuse in Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, the state’s sole juvenile detention facility until its closure in 2020, and from abuse in other juvenile and adult facilities both in and outside of Vermont.
Now, survivors are taking advantage of a groundbreaking Vermont law that eliminates the civil sexual abuse statute of limitations to step forward and seek justice.
Levy Konigsberg is an award-winning firm with a legacy for litigating sexual abuse lawsuits nationwide. Our team has taken on public and private prison systems, various juvenile justice and child services agencies, and other powerful institutions, and has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for survivors. If you have questions about a potential case, we want to help.
We represent survivors across Vermont and offer FREE and confidential consultations. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.
History of Sexual Abuse in Vermont’s Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center
Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center was a juvenile detention facility operated by the Vermont Department for Children and Families. Opened in 1986 in Essex, Vermont, Woodside was slated to be a center for “rehabilitation” rather than punitive incarceration where youth could receive therapy and treatment for mental health disorders.
Unfortunately, Woodside soon developed a reputation for negligent care, inhumane conditions, and rampant abuse. As investigations, lawsuits, and legal filings throughout the years have revealed, these problems were caused by unqualified leadership, willful cover-ups, and a culture that condoned maltreatment and abusive acts known to facilitate sexual abuse, such as shackling children until they gave in to strip searches, keeping children locked up naked, and failing to ensure that at least one female staff member was on duty for intakes of young girls.
Some examples of Woodside’s troubling history include:
- In October 2023, a journalistic investigation published by Seven Days chronicled the abhorrent conditions endured by youth inmates housed at Woodside. Beginning with a harrowing description of a staff-filmed video depicting a naked female inmate in an emotional crisis, the article goes on to discuss how staff routinely engaged in unacceptable conduct and abusive acts. This included excessive isolation, stripping inmates naked, improper use of restraints, unsanitary conditions, and rampant physical abuse that’s been documented by decades of lawsuits and internal investigations. It also refers to various experts who resoundingly agreed that staff overwhelmingly failed in their obligation to house and care for children and that conditions at Woodside were “traumatic, unnecessary, and dehumanizing,” “horrifying and deeply disturbing,” and fostered a culture in which sexual abuse commonly occurs. Most troubling, the article notes how the Department for Children and Families knew about the conditions at Woodside for years, failed to address them, and even took steps to silence victims by pressuring them to withdraw complaints.
- In December 2023, the state of Vermont agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle claims from youth who were abused at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center and another juvenile facility in Middlesex. The settlement was brought against the DCF and 22 DCF employees by three male and four female plaintiffs, including one who died from a drug overdose shortly before the lawsuit was filed, over abuse that occurred regularly between 2016 and 2020. Of the 22 employees named as defendants, eleven remained employed by the state, often in roles that require them to work directly with youth.
- In June 2019, nonprofit advocacy group Disability Rights Vermont filed a federal lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction to stop the abuse at Woodside. The suit, which claimed that children were being irreparably harmed by extended isolation, improper restraining techniques, and other abusive conditions, was met with concerning challenges from the facility’s operators. After reviewing the damning catalogue of complaints and investigations, a federal judge found that Woodside was “an institution in need of systemic change and reform” and ordered DCF to revamp its policies for restraining and isolating residents.
- In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report on incidents of sexual abuse reported by youth housed in juvenile detention centers nationwide during 2012. The DOJ report found that nearly 7% of youth at Woodside experienced sexual abuse from staff.
- In December 2006, Vermont’s federally mandated protection and advocacy system, Vermont Protection and Advocacy, Inc., issued a scathing report about abusive conditions and violations at Woodside. According to VP&A, staff engaged in problematic strip searches of youth inmates, excessive use of force, and improper restraining techniques. It also noted that facility operators were slow to address the increasing population of female inmates, and that it had previously failed on numerous occasions to have at least one female staff member on duty in its detention wing, a violation that can increase risks of staff-on-inmate sexual assaults.
Sexual Abuse of Youth Inmates in Other Jails, Prisons & Detention Centers
Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center was Vermont’s only juvenile detention facility for many years prior to its closure in 2020.
After Woodside was shuttered, Vermont’s Department for Children and Family Services was required to send youth charged with or adjudicated of crimes to various adult jails and prisons across the state or, in some cases, to the Sununu Youth Services Center in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, these facilities were not and are still not free from the same problems that plagued Woodside. What’s more, they posed greater risks to youth who were incarcerated alongside adults, in adult facilities known for sexual misconduct allegations, such as Chittenden Correctional, and in juvenile detention centers with histories of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse.
The Sununu Youth Services Center, for example, has faced years of criticism over high rates of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse, as well as sweeping investigations and civil lawsuits that revealed a pervasive sexual abuse problem dating back decades. These legal actions ultimately led to the creation of a special fund meant to compensate youth sexually abused by Sununu staff, giving survivors another option to recover compensation.
If you were a Vermont youth who was sexually abused at the Sununu Youth Services Center in New Hampshire, your options for securing justice and financial recovery may include:
- A claim filed with the YDC Settlement Fund, which was created to compensate victims sexually abused by staff at Sununu (formerly known as the Youth Development Center) and other NH juvenile justice facilities. The $100 million settlement fund allows for up to $1.5 million in payments to sexual abuse survivors and up to $150,000 for survivors of physical abuse. The YDC Settlement Fund has a filing window that closes on December 31, 2024.
- A civil lawsuit filed against responsible entities that failed to stop abuse and protect youth inmates, such as the Vermont Department for Children and Family Services or other local and state agencies that operated adult jails and prisons.
In addition to investigating claims of sexual abuse at Woodside, Levy Konigsberg is also evaluating potential cases from Vermont youth who were housed in other jails and prisons in Vermont and in New Hampshire juvenile detention centers such as the Sununu Youth Services Center.
If you have a potential case, we can evaluate your rights and options during a confidential consultation.
Child Sexual Abuse Survivors Have New Opportunities to File Civil Claims Under New Vermont Law
In 2019, Vermont lawmakers passed H. 330, an historic measure that completely removed the time limits for child sexual abuse survivors to file civil lawsuits.
Hailed as one of the strongest statute of limitations reforms for victims in the country, Vermont’s law was intended to account for the fact that sexual abuse survivors abused as minors often take decades to process their abuse and the effects abuse has had on their lives, and that most do not step forward with their claims under the average age of 52.
Under Vermont’s sexual abuse law:
- There is no statute of limitations for civil actions based on childhood sexual abuse, which means survivors can file lawsuits no matter how much time has elapsed since they were abused.
- The statute of limitations elimination is fully retroactive, which means that child sex abuse survivors can file lawsuits over abuse that occurred at any time in the past, including claims that were previously time-barred.
- The law allows victims to sue institutions, organizations, or companies that permitted or perpetuated child sexual abuse.
For survivors who were sexually abused in Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center and other detention facilities, Vermont’s new law provides important opportunities to hold the DCF and other entities accountable for their failures.
Our sexual abuse team at Levy Konigsberg has helped numerous survivors file claims under survivor-friendly legislation like H. 330. If you have questions about a potential case and whether you have grounds to file a claim, our Vermont juvenile detention center sexual abuse attorneys are here to help.
Can I File a Lawsuit?
You may have grounds to file a civil legal action if:
- You were sexually abused by a counselor, guard, or other juvenile detention center staff member.
- The abuse occurred at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, a jail or prison facility in Vermont, the Sununu Youth Services Center in New Hampshire, or any other facility that housed youth inmates from Vermont.
At Levy Konigsberg, we help survivors explore their options for pursuing compensation from either settlement funds like the YDC Settlement Fund or civil lawsuits. These avenues are separate matters from any criminal proceedings that may arise, which means that survivors can still file claims even if:
- An abuser was never charged with a crime.
- An abuser was never convicted or was found Not Guilty.
- An abuser is deceased.
Our attorneys have extensive experience handling sexual abuse cases involving staff-on-inmate sexual abuse at juvenile detention facilities and can evaluate whether you have a claim during a consultation.
Compensation for Survivors in Sexual Abuse Claims
In addition to providing a sense of justice, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover compensation for their losses, which may include:
- Past mental health and medical expenses
- Future mental health treatment expenses, including therapy
- 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 has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including more than $50 million in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors in the fight for justice and have the experience and resources to take on powerful institutions.
If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were a juvenile housed at Woodside or another detention facility selected by the Vermont Department for Children and Families, 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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