The lawsuit claims that juvenile detainees were sometimes stripped naked by enraged staff.
Seven people who were formerly detained at Vermont’s shuttered Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center have filed a lawsuit against state officials and staff, claiming “obscene abuse” at Woodside as well as another facility.
According to The Associated Press, Vermont closed Woodside last year, following a decrease in new arrivals and a lawsuit alleging that the 30-bed center had housed disabled children in dangerous conditions.
The latest lawsuit, says The A.P., was filed Monday against 22 employees of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, its former commissioner, and Woodside staff.
The complaint broadly alleges that Woodside tolerated the abuse of detained children, with regular abuse occurring between 2016 and 2020.
“On a regular basis, vulnerable children, some of whom had been physically, mentally, and/or sexually abused by caregivers before they were taken into state custody and sent to Woodside, were physically assaulted and sometimes stripped of their clothing by Woodside staff members who demanded compliance with their orders,” the lawsuit says. The same children were often confined to isolation cells for days, weeks and sometimes months at a time, it states.”
The Bennington Banner notes that, in one case, an emergency medical technician who had been summoned to Woodside to check a girl for a concussion was so disturbed by what he submitted a complaint to authorities, saying he had found his patient “naked, covered in feces, urine and menstrual blood and … nearing hypothermia.”
The lawsuit observes that many of the children housed at Woodside had been victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in their own homes—after being detained and relocated, the lawsuit suggests they were subject to similar mistreatment behind bars.
After the state received complaints about misconduct at Woodside, investigators told state officials that Woodside staff were employing inappropriate and potentially illegal tactics.
When asked for comment by The A.P., Vermont State Employees’ Association executive director Steve Howard said that he has not yet read the court documents.
However, Howard did say that he had been under the impression that Woodside staff were dedicated professionals committed to their young wards.
“The members I met from Woodside cared very deeply about the children in their care, in many cases they were the only family those kids had, and they were dedicated to helping them overcome the challenges they faced,” Howard told The Associated Press in an email.
The civil lawsuit, says The Associated Press, seeks unspecified damages for former Woodside detainees, as well as damages related to the treatment of injuries incurred inside the facility.