Pennsylvania Juvenile Detention System Faces Dozens of Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

At least 100 more plaintiffs who would like to file Pennsylvania juvenile justice system child sexual abuse lawsuits are time-barred by state laws.

Dozens of former child inmates of the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system have filed lawsuits claiming they were sexually abused by guards and other employees while incarcerated. However, a large number of other survivors have come forward, but their claims are currently barred by the Pennsylvania child sex abuse statute of limitations.

A report by The Associated Press indicates four lawsuits were filed this week, pursuing damages on behalf of 66 different individuals who indicate they were victims of sometimes violent rapes and sexual assaults in Pennsylvania juvenile detention facilities while they were children, including Loysville Youth Development Center, South Mountain Secure Treatment Unit and North Central Secure Treatment Unit in Danville; Merakey USA’s Northwestern Academy; and facilities run by VisionQuest National Ltd., and Devereaux Advanced Behavioral Health.

Many of the reports indicate that no actions were taken, even when child inmates reported the assaults to other staffers.

All of the plaintiffs now pursuing Pennsylvania juvenile detention facility sex abuse lawsuits were born after November 26, 1989. However, other individuals born before that date are currently barred from pursuing claims under the state’s current statute of limitations rules, which advocates have been pushing to expand for years, since it often takes survivors of child sexual assault decades to come forward.

However, that is due to the state’s filing limits on child sexual abuse. Plaintiffs’ attorneys say there are more than 100 individuals who would like to file, but are too old and waited too long under the state’s current statute of limitation rules.

Proposals have been submitted to expand the Pennsylvania child sex abuse deadlines, mirroring measures that have been enacted in a number of other states in recent years, where statute of limitations deadlines have been entirely removed, or two-year “windows” have been opened for older survivors to now come forward and pursue civil claims against their abusers or entities that enabled the conduct. However, those efforts have been blocked by Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

In Maryland, after its own child victims act was passed in 2023, more than 100 juvenile detention child sex abuse lawsuits were brought by individuals who say they were sexually assaulted as wards of the state.

The Maryland child sex abuse lawsuits each raise similar allegations, indicating that state officials knew about the problems for decades, but ignored them while children were sexually assaulted and tortured by state employees.

In Pennsylvania, former wards of the state say they experienced everything from unnecessary strip searches to rape involving physical violence. Some report having been exploited by being granted certain privileges if they submitted willingly to sexual abuse. Others were punished for trying to report the incidents.

Responding to claims of abuse, the state created a task force to look into the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system, reporting in 2021 that the system incarcerated a disproportionate level of first-time, low level and Black offenders.

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