Two dozen more men and women allege sex abuse at Department of Juvenile Services facilities

BALTIMORE — Another 24 men and women joined more than 200 other plaintiffs who say Maryland Department of Juvenile Services staff sexually abused them while they were incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities as children.

A new complaint filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court by the New York law firm Levy Konigsberg and Maryland-based Brown Kiely said the department and the state failed to to adequately hire, train and supervise staff and to enact and enforce policies preventing sexual abuse.

Adults who say they were abused as minors in Maryland facilities have filed at least 10 lawsuits against the Department of Juvenile Services since October, when the Child Victims Act eliminated time limits for filing sex abuse lawsuits.

The other plaintiffs include 20 women who were at the former Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center in Laurel, 37 mean at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County; five men at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, 25 adults at the Cheltenham Youth Detention Center in Prince George’s County, and 63 adults at 15 different juvenile facilities.

Some of the plaintiffs in Thursday’s complaint, identified in the complaint by their initials, were as young as 12 years old when they were allegedly abused at juvenile facilities. The complaint names DJS facilities across the state and details abuse spanning from the 1980s to the 2010s.

One 12-year-old boy was abused by four officers, two men and two women, at the former Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center in the late 1980s during multiple stints in detention. They attacked him in the shower and one officer in particular abused him at least 25 times.

A girl detained at Waxter around the same period was abused more than 20 times by a staff member who threatened that a judge would add more time to her sentence if the 12-year-old failed to comply. The woman called the girl a “throwaway” and “meaningless,” according to the complaint.

Guards and other staff tried to bribe victims with privileges and extra food and threatened them with physical violence or longer sentences so they would not report the abuse, according to the complaint. Some alleged abusers were identified by nicknames or physical descriptions, but the complaint said that plaintiffs hope to learn their identities during litigation.

A staff member at the Hickey School threatened to tell other detainees that a 17-year-old was a “snitch” to discourage him from reporting abuse in 1982. After he resisted an attempted rape, the staff member told other detainees the teen was a witness in a murder trial and let them physically assault him.

Two decades later, a different staff member who sexually abused a teenage boy at the Hickey School around 2001 to 2002 choked him until he lost consciousness and hit him to scare him out of reporting the abuse, the complaint said.

One teen did report the abuse she suffered at Waxter when she was between 12 and 16 years old to three staff members, the complaint said.

“Survivors of systematic, institutional sexual abuse at Maryland juvenile detention centers are continuing to come forward to seek justice. These new filings show a consistent pattern of rampant sexual abuse in Maryland’s broken juvenile justice system,” Levy Konigbserg attorney Jerome Block said in a statement. “The courageous women and men that are filing these cases want justice, accountability and for sexual abuse in Maryland juvenile detention centers to end.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Juvenile Services did not respond immediately Thursday to a request for comment.

“The department takes allegations of sexual abuse of children in our care very seriously and we are working hard to provide decent, humane, and rehabilitative environments for youth placed in the department’s custody,” spokesperson Eric Solomon said in December in response to other lawsuits.

The complaint filed Thursday does not list a dollar amount plaintiffs are seeking, but said they are individually requesting damages from the department and the state in excess of $75,000.