On October 16, 1991, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of all boys confined, presently or in the future, in the Youth Development Center in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The ...
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On October 16, 1991, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of all boys confined, presently or in the future, in the Youth Development Center in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Juvenile Law Center, sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that their constitutional rights were violated by conditions at the Youth Development Center.
The Youth Development Center's population was made up almost entirely of minorities, unlike the other juvenile detention facilities in Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs claimed that the Youth Development Center was overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe. They complained that the State provided inadequate staff, medical care, mental health care, education, rehabilitative programming, food and nutrition, recreational programming, access to legal counsel, and visitation privileges. Although the facility had both secure and open wards, violent detainees were neither classified nor housed separately from non-violent juveniles. The problem was exacerbated by courts that mistakenly assigned children too young for detention to the Youth Development Center. The facility was plagued by violence, inflicted by both inmates and staff. Employees beat, physically restrained, and isolated juveniles as punishment. In addition, some staff members trafficked drugs and alcohol, engaged in and permitted sexual activity with detainees, allowed them to have sexual relationships with one another, and assisted detainees to escape.
On April 9, 1993, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Judge Stewart R. Dalzell) approved a Stipulation of Settlement. The settlement recognized that many of the Youth Development Center's policies actually prohibited the complained of activity. The State agreed to enforce these policies, which it could not change without approval from the plaintiffs. The state agreed to increase and improve staff development to ensure that trained professionals provided consistent service. The State also agreed to screen detainees for disabilities, educate them, and hire a full time Client Rights Advocate. The State would hire a consultant (Peter Leone or another mutually acceptable expert) to monitor the State's conformance with the agreement. The parties agreed to address new complaints and non-compliance issues solely through an administrative system outlined in the Stipulation of Settlement.
On December 1, 1994, a probationary period for the parties to gauge their satisfaction with the settlement ended and the suit was dismissed. We have no additional information on this case or the efficacy of the process for addressing complaints.Elizabeth Chilcoat - 05/23/2006