BOISE – A group of Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections employees who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state say the agency is violating a judge’s order to meet and decide which documents should be made public.
Attorney Andrew Schoppe filed court documents Wednesday alleging the agency has been stalling for months in an effort to keep the public from learning the details of allegations that some staffers sexually abused juveniles at a Nampa detention center. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill recently gave agency officials two weeks to discuss with the plaintiffs which records should be kept secret, but Schoppe says that deadline has passed.
The plaintiffs are asking Winmill to limit the types of documents that are sealed and order the department to turn over the records.
A group of current and former employees filed the lawsuit last year, alleging some staffers at a Nampa juvenile detention facility sexually abused incarcerated youths. Their lawsuit also contends that the department is rife with cronyism, that employees are committing fraud and wasting money and that managers failed to take action when one juvenile was caught inappropriately touching another.
In Wednesday’s filing, Schoppe said that since April, several people who were incarcerated as juveniles or who had family incarcerated came forward to say that they or their family member also had been sexually assaulted by female Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections employees in the past.
“That means there are between 10 and 12 known or suspected victims of sexual misconduct between IDJC staff and juveniles since 1998,” Schoppe wrote in the lawsuit. “The plaintiffs have every reason to believe that there may be more victims of such abuse who may be unaware of the lawsuit and of the sexual assault of other former juveniles, and that more of those victims may come forward if made aware of the ever-increasing number of other victims.”
Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections spokesman Monty Prow didn’t immediately return a call from the Associated Press requesting comment.
Schoppe contends the current protection order in the case, which prevents both sides from making many documents public, impairs his ability to collect additional relevant information that is “important to public health and safety.”
The plaintiffs say the state agency has had plenty of time to support what they believe are vague and overbroad claims that some types of documents must be kept hidden from the public. Schoppe and his clients are asking the court to agree that while certain things must be kept secret – the names of juveniles involved in the case, for instance – the rest of the documents must be released.