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Eye On Boise

Seven more charge sexual abuse at state juvenile detention center, seek millions in damages

Seven more people have come forward to say they were sexually abused by staffers at a state-run juvenile detention center in southwestern Idaho, the AP reports today. The new allegations were detailed in a tort claim filed with the state late Tuesday afternoon, and bring the number of former detainees at the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction detention center in Nampa alleging sexual abuse there to at least 10. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

7 more claim sex abuse at Idaho detention center 
REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Seven more people have come forward to say they were sexually abused by staffers at a state-run juvenile detention center in southwestern Idaho.

The new allegations were detailed in a tort claim filed with the state late Tuesday afternoon. So far at least 10 former detainees at the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction detention center in Nampa have brought sex abuse allegations against the state since last year, identifying at least half a dozen suspected abusers.

In the new tort claim, six boys and one girl make similar allegations — that they were sexually abused multiple times by staffers, that in some cases they were supplied with illicit drugs by a nurse at the detention center, and that the center's director and other staffers knew of the abuse but failed to intervene.

One of the former juveniles, described only as John Doe IV, said he was 15 years old and mentally ill when he was sent to the detention center in 2008. Doe IV said one female employee encouraged him and other youths to masturbate in front of her and that she would fondle them. Another female employee allegedly gave the boys nude photos of herself and took nude photos of the boys in addition to sexually abusing them. A former nurse at the facility is accused in the tort claim of providing illicit drugs to the youths and having sex with them.

"John Doe IV and other John Does wrote notes to then IDJC Director, Betty Grimm, and slipped them under her office door, pleading for help," their attorney, Bruce Skaug, wrote in the tort claim. "Ms. Grimm provided little or no response other than to instruct John Does that they had to go through proper channels or 'lines' to complain about the facility or staff."

Another former youth in the tort claim, called John Doe V, said he was so heavily medicated for mental illness that he was drooling, and that a female staffer performed oral sex on him and fondled him at least twice while he was in that state. A girl called Jane Doe I in the claim said she was sexually abused by a male employee at the juvenile detention center.

The group contends the sex abuse happened between 2008 and 2012. They're seeking damages totaling $8.4 million.

Both Jon Hanian, the spokesman for Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, and Jeff Ray, the acting spokesman for the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction, declined to comment because the matter is under litigation. Both men instead referred to a guest newspaper column written by Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction Director Sharon Harrigfeld earlier this month.

In the column, Harrigfeld wrote that she entered the field of juvenile corrections because she wanted to help young people.

"So I am profoundly troubled by allegations that former Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections staff at our Nampa detention center had sexual contact with youths in the agency's custody," Harrigfeld wrote. "And I know this is just as disturbing to the parents and loved ones of other juveniles in our State facilities. But it is important to note that the alleged incidents occurred several years ago, and that a number of significant steps have been taken to address those concerns and restore public confidence in Juvenile Corrections."

Harrigfeld wrote that the detention center has new leadership since the incidents occurred and that the department is now implementing federal Prison Rape Elimination Act standards.

Otter said earlier this year that Idaho would be opting out of the federal law in favor of standards created by a new state task force, and he cited the expense involved in implementing PREA — including meeting higher staff-to-juvenile ratios at detention centers — as part of the reason for his decision. Otter's spokesman didn't immediately respond to a question about what prompted the juvenile department to implement PREA after all.

One former employee at the center, Julie McCormick, was convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor earlier this year for sexually abusing a different youth at the center. That youth has since filed a lawsuit against the state alleging that officials knew or should have known about the abuse and that they failed to stop it.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press

 



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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