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Published on June 03, 2024
108 Ex-Detainees Accuse Illinois Youth Facilities of Decades-Long Sexual AbuseSource: Google Street View

In a shocking expansion of a previous lawsuit, 108 former inmates have brought forth new claims of sexual abuse against the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice, these lawsuits filed on Friday detail decades-spanning allegations of misconduct inside the state's youth detention facilities, the lawsuits—based on similar accusations from last month—now represent a harrowing narrative of systemic abuse that lawyers argue was facilitated by the very institutions meant to rehabilitate and safeguard the youth, according to a report by WTTW.

Among the most grievous accusations, one plaintiff, known as "Michael," recalled during a press conference how he suffered sexual abuse at IYC-Murphysboro and despite his attempts to alert the staff his complaints were ignored, echoing a grim sentiment of being "less than human," as WTTW reported; similarly, another lawsuit claims a victim was sexually abused at IYC-Warrenville where corrections officers and a delivery driver exploited her vulnerability, these survivors, now stepping forward, reveal a pattern that attorneys allege spans over eight youth centers in Illinois spanning 22 years, painting a distressing picture of the conditions minors faced behind bars.

While the accused agencies have yet to respond directly to these new allegations, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice previously stated that the safety of youths in their care is a serious concern and emphasized the implementation of policies and protocols aligning with state and federal standards to prevent misconduct. However, attorneys representing the victims are seeking a collective millions in damages, with each plaintiff asking for $2 million—the maximum permitted by law—as compensation for the years of abuse that allegedly went unchecked within the state's juvenile detention system, as per information from The Washington Post.

The filing in Illinois echoes a disturbing pattern observed nationwide, with similar lawsuits previously filed in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, and New York City—cases that serve to frame a national reckoning with the systemic abuse of detained youth and indeed the Pennsylvania lawsuits allege experiences of 66 individuals victimized by guards, nurses and supervisors, with some leading to arrests, trials, and settlements, but still the frequency of arrests remains low; illustrating the enormity of this issue, more than 1,100 former residents of a New Hampshire youth detention center have alleged abuse over six decades, a legal battle that recently culminated in a $38 million jury award, according to WTTW.