Juvenile Detention Centers Plagued By Sexual Abuse
Franklin Maldonado, 18, who was put into the Bronx’s Horizon Juvenile Detention Center in 2013 and 2014 at the age of 15, has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse against teens being held at the center. He says that male inmates are being used as “sex slaves”.
According to the lawsuit, the center’s supervisor Natalie Medford, in her mid-40s at the time, told Maldonado that if he “took care of her needs,” she would protect him from being disciplined and give him special privileges such as using her cell phone, special snacks and candy, and the ability to watch movies banned from other inmates.
In his lawsuit, Maldonado also claims he would periodically be released from his cell by Medford, who would “bring him to her office for the purposes of engaging in sexual contact with him.” Maldonado said he had had sex with Medford three or four times. They also engaged in “numerous other affectionate conduct such as kissing, holding hands and caressing his back.”
More than once, when he was placed in a segregated area called “The hole” for punishment, Maldonado was also released by Medford, who would “bring him to her office” for a sexual encounter.
Maldonado said whenever Medford would approach his cell, she would instruct other inmates to get lost so she would be alone with him and he would be ‘’physically unable’ to stop her advances.” On several occasions, Medford performed oral sex on the plaintiff and threatened him by saying, “If you say something, I will get you in a lot of trouble. But if you don’t say anything, I’ll take care of you.”
Maldonado states other guards knew what was going on, and he was told it was “business as usual” at the center. Male staff members would either look the other way or actually encourage the behavior. “After the sexual encounters were completed, [Maldonado] was permitted to leave [Medford’s] office and he would routinely encounter the other defendants, who would tell him “good job” and that [Maldonado] was a “special kid” and “be honest, you like her? And you like doing it, don’t you?’” according to filing.
Maldonado claims females at the center gained the trust of male inmates before using them to gratify “their own sexual needs and desires”. He names one other female guard in the lawsuit, Jane Estrella. Maldonado’s filing seeks $6 million in compensatory damages, either collectively or from each of the ten defendants.
“We will review the complaint,” said a spokesperson for the city Law Department, an agency that defends New York City from lawsuits. However, despite this reassurance, an operator at the facility, strangely enough, said he could not trace a worker named Medford.
According to Just Detention International, a U.S. based organization dedicated to ending sexual abuse, juvenile detention centers are “plagued” by sexual abuse. It cited a report released in 2013, where the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that around one in ten youth detainees were sexually exploited in 2012 with approximately 81 percent were victims taken advantage of by staff members.