Press Release re Ohio Conditions Lawsuit

December 20, 2004

Children’s Advocates File Suit against Ohio over Abuse of Girls at Scioto

Lawsuit cites abysmal state record of civil rights violations,
abusive and inhumane treatment

Cincinnati, Ohio – Today, the Children’s Law Center, the Youth Law Center, and the firm of Sirkin, Pinales & Schwartz LLP of Cincinnati filed a civil rights class action lawsuit against the state of Ohio for civil and human rights abuses of girls at the Ohio Department of Youth Services Scioto facility in Delaware County, Ohio. Issues cited in the complaint include: physical, verbal and sexual abuse by guards; failure by the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS) to adequately respond to and protect girls from abuse; and inadequate mental health and health care services.

“The physical, sexual and verbal abuse of girls by guards at the Scioto facility must stop now,” says Kim Brooks Tandy, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center based in Covington, Kentucky and co-counsel on the lawsuit. “We’re seeking legal remedies after exhausting all other possibilities to require ODYS to comply with the law. These girls deserve to be treated humanely and we want to ensure that they do not fear for their physical and emotional safety from staff entrusted with their care.”

“The Ohio Department of Youth Services has failed to take appropriate action to remedy these serious violations despite repeated complaints by girls and advocates as well as the Departments’ own experts’ reports confirming the abuses and deficiencies in care and treatment” says Youth Law Center attorney and co-counsel Maria Ramiu. “The ODYS has taken an approach to juvenile justice that undermines and circumvents its legal obligation to provide rehabilitation and treatment, and instead utilizes a failed adult correctional warehouse model that has proven to be ineffective and creates a fertile environment for abuse.”

According to the FY 2004 ODYS annual report, the 162 girls committed to the ODYS comprise approximately 9.4% of the youth offender population in Ohio. The Scioto facility is the state’s only juvenile correctional facility for girls in the state of Ohio and according to ODYS, the average length of stay is 10.4 months at a cost of approximately $49,296 per girl. Under Ohio state law, the Ohio Department of Youth Services is required to provide for the care, protection, mental and physical development of committed youth, protect the public interest and safety, to hold the offender accountable for the offender’s actions, to restore the victim, and to rehabilitate the offender.

Earlier this year, Department of Youth Services (DYS) Secretary Geno Natalucci-Persichetti requested that juvenile corrections expert Fred Cohen, Esq., investigate allegations of mistreatment of girls at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility. In August, Cohen issued a 77-page report documenting the treatment of girls, and in September issued an action plan to address the issues. Since the findings were issued, DYS Secretary Geno Natalucci-Persichetti, the Scioto Facility Administrator, Leroy Payton, have resigned and five guards have been indicted on criminal charges.

The Children’s Law Center, Inc. was established in May of 1989 to protect and enhance the legal rights and entitlements of children through quality legal representation, research and policy development, and training and education to attorneys and others regarding the rights of children. The Center’s priorities include juvenile justice, child welfare, and education issues generally, as well as emphasis on improving the quality and accessibility to legal representation, training and education for children in Kentucky.

The Youth Law Center (YLC) is a national public interest law firm, based in San Francisco, California, whose mission is to end abuse and maltreatment of children in the nation’s foster care and justice systems, and to ensure that these children are connected to families and communities. The Center engages in advocacy, including public education, policy advocacy, training, technical assistance, and litigation activities, seeking to ensure that children in state custody live free of abuse and dangerous conditions, are treated fairly and not subjected to discrimination, and receive the support and services they need to become healthy and productive adults.

Sirkin, Pinales & Schwartz LLP, a law firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio concentrates its practice in the following areas: Criminal Law, First Amendment Law, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Litigation, Township Law, Appellate Practice, White Collar Criminal Defense, Trials and Appeals in all State and Federal Courts.
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For more information, contact:

Kim Brooks Tandy, Esq., Executive Director, the Children’s Law Center, 104 East 7th Street,
Covington, KY 41011; Phone: (859) 431-3313; Web: www.childrenslawky.org

Maria Ramiu, Esq., Staff Attorney, Youth Law Center, 417 Montgomery Street, Suite 900,
San Francisco, CA 94104; Phone: (415) 543-3379