Lawsuit: Nampa juvenile detention workers had sex with inmates

Lawsuit: Nampa juvenile detention workers had sex with inmates »Play Video
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A group of current employees of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections have revised their whistleblower lawsuit against the agency, adding allegations that some staffers at a juvenile detention center have had sex with incarcerated youths.

In addition, six more staffers were added as plaintiffs to the lawsuit after they contacted attorney Andrew Schoppe and said they had witnessed problems similar to those alleged in the original complaint.

Schoppe first filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise on behalf of seven employees who contended the Nampa detention center where they work is rife with cronyism and unsafe polices that put staffers and children in danger. The group contended some other employees are committing fraud and wasting public money, and that people in management positions failed to take action when one juvenile was caught inappropriately touching another.

Officials with the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction denied those allegations in a response filed with the federal court.

In the revised version of the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the workers allege that incarcerated juveniles frequently have sex with each other, and that management often fails to intervene in those cases. The workers say management has also failed to act when some staffers had sexual relationships with jailed offenders.

"In at least two mind-boggling incidents, female IDJC staff members are believed to have been involved in unlawful sexual relationships with male juvenile offenders in their custody," Schoppe wrote in the lawsuit. "In one instance, a female IDJC staff had a relationship with an incarcerated male juvenile and moved in with him after his release."

Sharon Harrigfeld, director of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, said she couldn't comment on any of the allegations because of the ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit doesn't name the staffers who are accused of sexual contact or give the ages of juveniles allegedly involved.

The Nampa Juvenile Corrections Center is built to hold about 84 male and female juveniles between the ages of 13 and 20. The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections' website says the facility is not designed to hold sexual offenders, juveniles with severe emotional disturbances, or those with low IQs.

One of the employees bringing the lawsuit, Rhonda Ledford, told The Associated Press that she and other staffers were told to report incidents to supervisors, and that supervisors would take care of it. She said the mother of one female juvenile offender learned of sexual contact between her daughter and a male staffer and was livid, but Ledford didn't know if any of the incidents were ever reported to police.

"Our policy is we don't get involved with the juveniles even after they're out of our custody. It puts us and them in a really bad position," Ledford said. "I don't believe that they reported it. Typically, what you're told here is, 'You don't talk to anybody about it, don't mention it, we'll take care of it. It's being handled here.'"

Schoppe said he planned to ask the U.S. attorney's office to investigate the allegations to ensure the safety of the juveniles who are incarcerated at the Nampa center.

"It's not just about the plaintiffs, it's about the public at large and especially the juveniles that are there," Schoppe said.