The ACLU learned of the abuse through interviews with girls at the facility, but the investigation was halted when staff at the detention center stopped the questioning and refused to allow the research team to return.
The ACLU was able to learn from the interviews that girls who commit self-harm, such as cutting the skin of their arms, are automatically given a six-month extension of their term of detention and subjected to solitary confinement. Self-harm is often a sign of depression or anxiety requiring the attention of a mental health professional. Other allegations included sexual contact by staff with girls, severe limitations on contact with family members, unnecessary strip searches and physical abuse.
“Nobody in custody should be subjected to these conditions, but it is absolutely shocking to think that these things are happening to young girls,” said Mie Lewis, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
The ACLU requested public information about the confinement of girls at the facility to investigate the alleged abuse and to determine if boys in the facility were being similarly mistreated. After more than three months, there has been no response from the Department of Corrections.