Shocking sex abuse claims exposed at Pennsylvania juvenile centers


More than a dozen sexual abuse victims filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services claiming a failure to protect them from the reported assaults at three state-run juvenile detention facilities.

The 16 men and women allege incidents of sexual abuse dating back to 2000 and happening as recently as 2023, the law firm representing the victims said in a press release. The alleged abuse happened at Loysville Youth Development Center, North Central Secure Treatment Unit and South Mountain Secure Treatment Unit.

“Despite the well-documented abuse of children in the juvenile detention system, little was done by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to protect these children or to punish their abusers,” the Levy Konigsberg firm said in the release.

The alleged abuse involved many different staff members at the facilities, including correctional/detention officers, counselors, teachers, supervisors and managers.

In 2010, the director of Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services ignored federal reports of sexual abuse at the facilities and said children in the facilities “whose IQs are rather low” could not answer questions about whether they were abused.

View of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on April 2, 2023.

DANIEL SLIM/Getty

“It is this shocking and callous negligence on the part of the Commonwealth that has prompted the filing of this lawsuit,” the firm said.

The law firm said the abuse may date back even further, since laws in Pennsylvania prevent individuals who were born prior to November 26, 1989 from filing childhood sexual abuse claims.

“These cases once again show why it is so important for Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass legislation that will allow survivors of child sexual abuse to seek justice, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred,” Levy Konigsberg Partner Jerome Block said. “There are many more survivors, including men and women sexually abused at these same facilities in earlier decades, who are unable to file their cases of child sexual abuse under current Pennsylvania law.”

The firm also filed child sexual abuse lawsuits against juvenile residential rehabilitative facility VisionQuest National, Ltd. and nonprofit organization Devereux Foundation in Pennsylvania. The firm is representing 20 survivors in the VisionQuest lawsuit and 18 survivors in the Devereux suit.

In a fourth lawsuit filed in the state, the firm is representing 12 survivors alleging childhood sexual abuse at juvenile detention center Northwestern Academy.

In total, the firm is representing 66 survivors across the four lawsuits.

“For many years, Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable children have been sexually abused, neglected, and traumatized at juvenile detention facilities throughout the state, including Northwestern Academy,” the law firm said in a release.

The law firm is pursuing legal action against juvenile facilities in other states as well, including Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan.

Newsweek reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services seeking comment about the lawsuit.