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Maryland Women File Lawsuits Alleging “Horrific” Sexual Abuse in Baltimore County Juvenile Detention Centers

— March 14, 2024

The women claim that they were subjected to repeated acts of sexual abuse at privately-run juvenile detention centers in Baltimore County in Maryland.

Dozens of Maryland women have filed claims alleging that state agencies failed to protect them from “horrific” sexual abuse at Baltimore County juvenile detention centers.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the two lawsuits were recently in Baltimore Circuit Court on behalf of 39 plaintiffs. Both lawsuits relate to abuse at Good Shepherd Services treatment center in Halethorpe. They name multiple state-level agencies as defendants, including the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Health.

Good Shepherd Services, notes The Baltimore Sun, operated between 1970 and 2017. It was managed by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America, a private Catholic organization.

Attorneys for the former inmates, whose ages now range between 23 and 55, say their clients were subjected to “unimaginable trauma” by guards, counselors, nuns, and priests.

“The Good Shepherd Services treatment center was a site of unimaginable trauma for Maryland’s most vulnerable children,” the lawsuit alleges. “Though Good Shepherd was run by a private religious organization, the State of Maryland regularly sent children in need of mental health care to the facility, forcing these children into confinement in a cruel and inhumane environment where they suffered horrific sexual abuse.”

Jail cell; image by Ichigo121212, via Pixaby, CC0.
Jail cell; image by Ichigo121212, via Pixaby, CC0.

Facility staff, the lawsuit says, groomed and sometimes bribed underage detainees—who were abused in their bedrooms, in holding cells, classrooms, and offices. In some cases, staff members allegedly drugged their victims, telling them that nobody would believe them if they reported the abuse.

One of the plaintiffs, identified only by the initials “E.M.”, was sent to Good Shepherd Services by the Maryland Department of Human Services when she was 15 years old.

E.M. claims that staff at Good Shepherd withheld food and hygienic supplies from juvenile detainees, encouraging children to fight with one another before placing “bets” on the outcome.

The Baltimore Sun notes that E.M. also said staff would regularly take advantage of their wards.

E.M., for instance, said that a staff member in his “mid-20s” brought her food from McDonald’s and let her use his cell phone. However, the same staff member sexually assaulted E.M. on at least three or four occasions.

“Every day there, I lived in fear,” E.M. said. “It was like being in Riker’s Island. It was no place for a kid, no place for children who needed professional help.”

Another former detainee, who was sent to the Charles H. Hickey School when she was 13 years old for stealing bicycles and other minor offenses, recalls being repeatedly abused by Hickey staff.

“I was in my room, it was night. The door opened, [and] your body was clenched because you didn’t know what the [expletive] was going on,” she said. “[A] short time later, [the assaults] happened again, then again, then again.”

“I used to hear the keys turn at night,” she said, “but I never knew what it was until it happened personally to me.”

Frank Natale, an attorney representing 26 of the 39 women, told CBS News that he expects the current number of plaintiffs to triple as the case gains exposure.

“The state was sending children to this facility,” Natale said. “They put warnings out about this facility, yet they still allowed children to go there.”


39 people sue agencies over alleged sex abuse at Baltimore County youth facility

Dozens of women file lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by guards, counselors, nuns, and priests at Maryland juvenile facility

New lawsuit alleges decades of abuse, neglect at Maryland juvenile detention centers

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