Survivors and officials rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall to address abuse in juvenile detention centers

June 13, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
In a rally at Borough Hall, Borough President Antonio Reynoso, seen here, joined survivors of sexual abuse at NYC juvenile detention centers to demand reforms and highlight ongoing lawsuits filed by Levy Konigsberg LLP. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President
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In an event held at Borough Hall on Thursday, June 13, survivors of sexual abuse at New York City juvenile detention centers, alongside Borough President Antonio Reynoso and local advocates, demanded immediate reforms to address pervasive abuse within these facilities. 

The gathering brought attention to the ongoing lawsuits filed by Levy Konigsberg LLP on behalf of over 250 survivors, who allege they were abused by staff members at various juvenile centers, including Brooklyn’s Crossroads Juvenile Center and the Bronx’s Horizon Juvenile Center.

The event was meant to highlight the systemic issues within New York City’s juvenile detention centers, where abuse has allegedly been rampant for decades. Survivors shared their harrowing experiences, painting a grim picture of the conditions they endured while detained. Borough President Reynoso and other local officials joined the survivors, calling for accountability and sweeping reforms to protect the youth in these facilities.

Levy Konigsberg LLP, the law firm representing the survivors, has been instrumental in bringing these issues to light. The firm has filed more than 250 lawsuits, accusing the City of New York and various city agencies of failing to protect children from sexual abuse perpetrated by adult employees at juvenile detention centers.

Focus on Crossroads Juvenile Center

Crossroads Juvenile Center, located in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, has been at the center of many of these allegations. Established to provide secure detention for youth ages 12 to 21, the facility has long been criticized for its treatment of detainees. Reports of physical and sexual abuse by staff members have persisted for years, creating an environment of fear and mistrust among the youth held there.

One notable case from 2015 involved Victor Silva, a former counselor at Crossroads. An administrative law judge recommended Silva’s termination after finding that he physically beat a youth inmate and placed him in an impermissible chokehold. Silva was also found to have made a false, misleading and deceptive incident report. This case is just one of many that illustrate the ongoing issues at Crossroads.

Former detainees and advocates have long raised concerns about a culture of secrecy and cover-ups at the facility. Allegations of sexual abuse have been particularly troubling, with claims that staff members abused their positions of power to exploit vulnerable youth. The lawsuits filed by Levy Konigsberg on behalf of more than 50 survivors from Crossroads are part of a broader effort to hold the city accountable for these systemic failures.

Levy Konigsberg LLP has been at the forefront of this legal battle, filing hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse nationwide. The firm has been particularly active in New York, where it has brought cases under the recently amended Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law. This law, enacted in 2000 and amended in 2022, provides legal pathways for victims of sexual abuse to pursue damages from their abusers and from the institutions that enabled the abuse.

Jerome Block, a partner at Levy Konigsberg, highlighted the importance of these lawsuits. 

“With over 250 cases already filed, it’s time for Mayor Adams and the City agencies operating these juvenile facilities to accept responsibility for the ongoing problem of sexual abuse in the city’s juvenile detention centers,” Block said. “This rampant, institutionalized sexual abuse has persisted for many decades, and there is no evidence that the city has done anything to fix its procedures to ensure the safety of children in the New York City juvenile system.”

Despite widespread reports, investigations, and campaigns to close or reform these juvenile detention facilities, the City of New York has allowed this alleged culture of sexual abuse and brutality to continue unabated. The abuse alleged by these plaintiffs stretches across decades. 

The city closed the Spofford facility in 2011 and stopped sending juveniles to Rikers Island in late 2018. 

The suits filed by Levy Konigsberg include allegations of abuse that occurred at all major juvenile facilities in the city, with many cases involving staff members who have not faced any consequences for their actions.

The impact of the abuse suffered by these children is profound and long-lasting, attorneys from Levy Konigsberg said. Many survivors struggle with trauma, depression, and other mental health issues as a result of their experiences. The lawsuits aim to provide some measure of justice and compensation for these survivors, but they are also hoping to bring about systemic change to prevent future abuse.

The event at Brooklyn Borough Hall was a call to action for the city and its leaders. Survivors, advocates, and legal experts are demanding immediate and meaningful reforms to the juvenile detention system. They are calling for increased transparency, accountability, and protections for vulnerable youth.

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