Dozens more former juvenile inmates are suing the court over alleged sexual abuse in Illinois prisons

Dozens of other former juvenile inmates filed lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages for sexual abuse they allegedly suffered in Illinois prisons since the late 1990s.

Thirteen women and 95 men filed two separate lawsuits against the state Department of Corrections and the State Department of Juvenile Justice in the Illinois Court of Claims on Friday. Each plaintiff is seeking $2 million in damages, the maximum allowed by law.

“This is simply egregious misconduct by the state of Illinois, by the juvenile justice system, that has been going on for decades and must stop,” Jerome Block, one of the former inmates' attorneys, said Monday during a press conference.

Juvenile court officials issued a statement Monday afternoon saying they were aware of the complaints, which are “related to allegations under previous administrations.” They said the department takes youth safety seriously and any allegations of staff misconduct are investigated immediately, often in cooperation with the state Department of Corrections, Illinois State Police and the Department of Children and Families.

They added that all staff working in their facilities undergo background checks and receive training and ongoing professional development.

The files are filled with disturbing allegations that guards, teachers and counselors at eight juvenile correctional facilities across the state sexually abused inmates between 1997 and 2019. Often, the same perpetrators abused the same children for months, sometimes offering to reduce their sentences or give them snacks or extra free time in exchange for their silence, the lawsuits say.

A plaintiff claimed she was 15 years old when she was placed in a Warrenville detention center in 2012. A guard groped her under her clothes and on another occasion attempted to rape her in the shower area. The guard said he would put her in solitary confinement if she told anyone. The woman further alleged that another guard sexually assaulted her in a bathroom and then gave her a Butterfinger candy bar.

A male plaintiff claimed he was 13 years old when he was placed in a St. Charles prison in 1997. Two guards gave him food, extra time outside his cell and extra television time as a reward for having sex with them, he claimed. When he reported the abuse, guards locked him in his cell as punishment, he said. The plaintiff said he was transferred to two other prisons in Warrenville and Valley View. There, too, guards groped him.

A plaintiff identified as MB in the male inmates' lawsuit appeared at the press conference. According to the lawsuit, he was 17 when he was placed in a now-closed facility in Murphysboro in 2009.

A guard regularly sexually abused him while he was cleaning the facility's solitary confinement and psychiatric units, the lawsuit says. The guard told him that if he ever told anyone, his sentence would be extended by five years and gave him Gatorade and chips as a reward for enduring the abuse. MB filed a complaint, but no one followed up on the complaint.

“This experience left me so shaken that I am still going through a lot to this day,” MB said at the press conference. “It gave me the message that no one cares about me, that I am less than human. The code of secrecy that has enabled sexual abuse must end.”

The lawsuits point out that a 2013 U.S. Department of Justice survey of incarcerated juveniles found that Illinois was among the top four states in the nation for sexual abuse in prisons.

Lawyers for the former juvenile inmates have filed similar lawsuits across the country.

Last month, they filed suit on behalf of 95 other former juvenile inmates who claim they were sexually abused in Illinois juvenile correctional facilities between 1997 and 2017. Each of those plaintiffs is also seeking $2 million. The state Department of Justice said in a statement on the lawsuit that these alleged incidents occurred under the direction of former department heads.

Block said during the press conference that blaming previous administrations does not mean taking responsibility. Such widespread, severe sexual abuse cannot occur without negligence, he said, and he has seen no signs that conditions at the youth centers have improved.

With the three lawsuits in Illinois, the total number of plaintiffs rises to over 200.

Lawyers for the inmates also filed suit in Pennsylvania in May, alleging that 66 people, now adults, were abused by guards, nurses and supervisors in the state's juvenile corrections system. The lawsuits in Illinois and Pennsylvania followed others in Maryland, Michigan and New York City.

In some cases there were trials or settlements, but arrests were rare.

In New Hampshire, more than 1,100 former residents of the state's youth prison have filed lawsuits since 2020 alleging physical or sexual abuse spanning six decades. The first lawsuit went to trial last month, and a jury awarded the plaintiff $38 million, although the amount is still in dispute. Eleven former state employees have been arrested, and more than 100 others are named in the lawsuits.


This story has been corrected to show that the end date of the allegations in the most recent court case was 2019, not 2013.

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *