June 4, 2024

Exposing the Hidden Nightmares: Former Inmates Break Silence on Sexual Abuse in Illinois Youth Centers

The once-hidden horrors of the Illinois Youth Centers (IYCs) are now under the glaring spotlight, as numerous former residents bravely speak out about the sexual abuse they ensured while detained, leading to multiple lawsuits for damages and a closer examination of systemic failures within these institutions. The alarming statistics from official reports, coupled with heart-wrenching personal accounts, have highlighted a pervasive issue that demands urgent attention.


Several former residents of ICYs have alleged they were sexually abused by correctional officers and staff while detained at the facilities. As of now, 95 men and 13 women have come forward and filed suites to remedy the harms they suffered at the hands of those who were hired to protect them. The victims allege they were as young as 10 years old when the abuse occurred. Thus far, eight youth centers across Illinois have been identified as abusing its residents: St. Charles, Harrisburg, Chicago, Joliet, Kewanee, Warrenville, Murphysboro and Valley View. However, there are likely many more youth centers that fostered such a culture of sexually abusing children.  

Alarming Statistics 

These youth centers have been aware of their abusive culture. A National Survey of Youth in Custody from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that over a decade ago, in 2012, 19.5% of residents at the IYC in Joliet reported nonconsensual sexual acts excluding touching and 14% of youth reported sexual misconduct with force by staff, one of the highest statistics of any facility in the Nation. The same survey showed that the juvenile rates of sexual victimization in Illinois and 3 other states were at least 35% higher than the national average. https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/svjfry12.pdf  

Gut-Wrenching Personal Stories 

One of the victims that broke her silence alleges that when she was 14, she was sexually abused both by a correctional officer and a delivery driver at an IYC facility; the officer offered her snacks and additional time outside of her cell if she would remain topless throughout his shift and allow him to grope her breasts. Another victim that has come forward about his sexual abuse said he tried reporting to other staff what was happening to him at the IYC in Murphysboro, but nobody would listen. He said that it gave him the message that nobody cared about him, that he was less than human.  

The Legal Battle Begins 

Now that these brave victims have broken their silence and come forward, action is being taken against the IYCs, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Illinois Department of Corrections. While we can’t state what will happen in these cases, we can look to similar actions filed in other states as possible predictors. The first such lawsuit that went to trial last month was in New Hampshire, and a jury awarded the plaintiff $38 million, though the amount remains disputed.  

The Call for Reform 

The team at Justice for Kids, a Division of Kelley Kronenberg, is ready to help those who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. We understand the pain and hardship that families face when children become victims of abuse, neglect, or failings within the Illinois child welfare system.   

If you are seeking justice for a child victim of sexual abuse, our specialized team is here to provide you with the qualified and assertive representation you deserve.  

To learn more about Justice for Kids, visit us at www.JusticeForKids.com.  

Julianna B. Walo, Esq.
Attorney, Justice for Kids
Kelley Kronenberg-Chicago, IL
754-888-KIDS (5437)