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Federal Lawsuit Claims Kentucky County Kept Juvenile Detainees in Solitary for Weeks at a Time

— January 17, 2024

One of the two plaintiffs claims that she was sent to Adair County Juvenile Detention Center when she was 17 years old and seven months pregnant. During her stay at Adair, she was housed exclusively in isolation–and sometimes allowed to leave her cell only five times per month.

A federal class-action lawsuit claims that two teenage girls held at a Kentucky juvenile detention center were kept in solitary confinement for weeks, enduring prolonged isolation and unsanitary conditions.

According to The Associated Press, the two teenage detainees were both held at the Adair County Detention Center in late 2022, around the same time that Kentucky State Police reported a riot at the facility that started after another inmate assaulted a staff member.

The riot, along with other security-related incidents, prompted Gov. Andy Beshear to introduce new polices placing male juvenile inmates charged with serious crimes in separate facilities. It also directed the establishment of a new, all-female detention center in the northern part of the state.

In the lawsuit, attorneys recalled an incident in which one of the two juveniles was purportedly kept in solitary confinement and forced to listen to “a Spanish version of ‘Baby Shark’ playing on a loop.”

Image via Pexels/Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0)

Other detainees, including some not party to the complaint, said that they “spent days soaked in menstrual blood,” enduring abuse from staffers who refused to provide sanitary products while mocking the inmate’s hygiene.

The complaint further alleges that the plaintiffs, and other juveniles, were:

  • Held in isolation for long periods of time
  • Deprived of education and other constructive interaction
  • Denied prescription medication
  • Forced to expose their bodies to members of the oppose sex
  • Subjected to psychological torture

Alarmingly, both of the teenager plaintiffs say that they spent most—if not all—of their stays in Adair County Detention Center in solitary confinement. One of the teenagers, who was 17 years old at the time, was seven months pregnant—yet was rarely given permission to leave her cell, sometimes being let out as few as five times in the course of an entire month.

Laura Landenwich, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told the Herald-Leader that both of her clients are now adults and are no longer in the state Department of Juvenile Justice’s custody.

“Talking to these girls, it’s just so tragic—just the entire experience,” Landenwich said. “It’s intolerable to treat people the way they’ve been treated.”

State officials say that they have not yet been served the lawsuit but insisted that its claims are without merit.

“We deny the allegations in the lawsuit and will defend accordingly,” said Morgan Hall, director of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

“The [Department of Juvenile Justice] works tirelessly to provide safe and effective services to the juveniles in its care,” Hall said. “For any staff member who violates policy and procedure, corrective action is taken.”


‘Baby Shark’ song used to torture teen in detention, lawsuit claims

Teens held in insect-infested cells, tortured with ‘Baby Shark’ among explosive claims in Kentucky lawsuit

Teens kept in isolation cells at Kentucky juvenile detention center, lawsuit alleges

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