DRO files federal lawsuit against juvenile detention facility for denying DRO access to detained youth

September 22, 2016 / access authority

Today, Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) filed a federal lawsuit against the Multi-County Juvenile Detention Center (MCJDC) in Lancaster, OH, after the facility repeatedly denied DRO private and confidential access to the youth in residence there, in violation of state and federal law. MCJDC houses alleged delinquent youth from Fairfield, Hocking, Licking and Perry counties. As the Protection & Advocacy (P&A) system for people with disabilities in Ohio, DRO has the authority to monitor conditions and treatment of residents in any facility housing individuals with disabilities. The suit asks the court to force MCJDC and its Superintendent Dana Moore to honor state and federal law and allow DRO to fulfill its mandate.

DRO’s access authority includes juvenile detention centers because they often house children with disabilities. The Ohio Department of Youth Services reported in its September 2016 fact sheet that 41% of male youth and 100% of female youth in state-operated juvenile correctional facilities receive mental health services. Forty-six percent are in need of special education services.

“Since late July, DRO has attempted to negotiate with MCJDC on this question, making it clear that we would work with staff to ensure our visit didn’t implicate legitimate security concerns,” says DRO Attorney Kristen Henry. “Although MCJDC did take DRO representatives on a tour of the facility, they refused to allow us to speak confidentially with the youth about their experiences. We have real concerns that the youth are not being given a way to exercise their rights or voice concerns about possible mistreatment.”

DRO Executive Director Michael Kirkman noted, “Monitoring of institutions by the P&A is an important tool intended by Congress to protect adults and children with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and rights violations. We trust that the court will act swiftly to ensure the safety of these individuals.”

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