More Than 250 Former Juvenile Detainees Sue NYC After They Were Allegedly Sexually Abused By Staff

City Panel Likely To Recommend Closing New York City's Infamous Rikers Island Prison

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New York City is now the defendant in more than 250 lawsuits filed by former juvenile detention center detainees who say they were sexually assaulted by guards, counselors and other adult staff members at four current and former juvenile facilities.

The facilities at the center of the lawsuits include two that are still operating as juvenile centers, Crossroads in Brooklyn and Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx. Also accused of facilitating child sex abuse are Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, which permanently closed its doors in 2011, and one of the city’s most notorious prisons, Riker’s Island, which no longer detains minors after the state enacted a law known as “Raise the Age” in 2019. The law went into effect nine years after then-16-year-old Kalief Browder was imprisoned and ruthlessly abused there, and four years after he died by suicide due to the trauma that resulted from his experience at Rikers’.

Prisoner Rights Advocacy and Activist Groups held a press...

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Most of the plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits were younger than 16 when they were detained, often for petty offenses that shouldn’t have resulted in them enduring what often causes a lifetime of trauma and PTSD for the victims.

Some Terrorized Boys Cases’ Had Been Dropped

“Many of our clients were detained for minor infractions,” said Jerome Block, a partner at Levy Konigsberg LLP, a law firm that specializes in childhood sexual abuse and exploitation cases. “Sometimes, these juvenile charges were even later dismissed. Some were in these juvenile facilities for a matter of weeks or months, and they were sexually abused during that short time period.”

Speaking of Kaleif, the elephant in the room here is the likelihood that the overwhelming majority of plaintiffs in these suits are Black and Latino boys, considering the discrimination that drove the vulgar racial disparities in juvenile detention. The number of Black Latino boys’ who are being detained has increased even as the overall number of incarcerated juveniles has decreased in the U.S. and particularly in NYC.

Two plaintiffs, both Black men who were incarcerated at Crossroads, joined attorneys during a recent news conference regarding the lawsuits to tell their stories.

From the Daily News:

Nijere Stewart, 14, was locked up for less than half of a year in 2018 at Crossroads in Brooklyn. He was detained for a nearby gun on criminal charges that were later thrown out, his lawyer said, but not before he faced sexual abuse.

“I went from an innocent kid with straight A’s, loved to play with my brothers, walk stilts in Crown Heights,” Stewart said, [and that he was]  “too traumatized and ashamed as a teenager because of the nightmare I had to go to live every night from adults who were supposed to protect me.”

When he first arrived at the juvenile center, Stewart alleges a male staff member would grab his buttocks when he passed him in the hallway, according to his complaint. From there, the allegations intensified. The staffer fondled his genitals, sometimes under his clothes, about three times per week, according to court documents, and he was forced to perform oral sex and raped in two separate incidents.

Stewart reported the staff member to a counselor and his mother, who reported it to Crossroads, but the abuse continued after coming forward, the complaint said.

Just a few years earlier, Clyde Wiggins was detained at the same jail for over a year, after his advocate and the then-16-year-old said he was in a car with adults who robbed a grocery store and took the blame for it as a minor. More than half-way through his time, Crossroads hired a female tutor who during sessions in the dorm area performed oral sex on him, according to a separate complaint.

Wiggins was bribed with alcohol and food from outside Crossroads, the filings read, but later reported the staff member and was transferred to Horizon. Since getting out almost two decades ago, he’s tried to get back into music, which he said was his passion before he was detained. But it hasn’t been easy.

“Afterward, when I came home and stuff like all that, that passion was gone,” Wiggins said. “I’m trying to find it back as an adult through my kid, but you know, it’s hard to.”

A Temporary Measure May Help…But Only A Little Bit

The lawsuits, which have been pouring in since April, were filed “under a city gender-based violence law that in 2022 lifted the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for a two-year, lock-back window,” the Daily News reported. Although the measure is only temporary, at least victims will have some extra time to fight for their own justice. Far too often victims of sexual abuse, adults and children, are denied the opportunity to even try to get justice because there’s typically a period of healing that must take place between the day of the assault and the day the a person feels emotionally or otherwise prepared to come forward.

The trauma of sexual abuse and the thievery of body sovereignty—especially in young people who are just coming to know themselves—takes years to process before many are able to begin to even think about coming forward and reporting,” said Emily Miles, director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. “For those who face the compound trauma of abuse while incarcerated, the process of recording can take even longer.”

Regardless of what offenses an inmatechild or adulthas committed (or allegedly committed), once they are placed in a detention facility, they are required to receive protection and care from that facility. And they have the right to be treated humanely. Hopefully, some semblance of justice is served as a result of these hundreds of lawsuits.


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New York City Finally Decides To Pay For Kalief Browder’s Life

Judge banging gavel in court

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The post More Than 250 Former Juvenile Detainees Sue NYC After They Were Allegedly Sexually Abused By Staff appeared first on NewsOne.

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