This page will look at sexual abuse lawsuits involving the Waxter Juvenile Detention Center in Laurel, Maryland. Countless children who were inmates at Waxter may have been the victims of sexual assault and abuse by the staff at the facility over the years. Under a new law in Maryland, these victims of childhood sexual abuse can now file civil lawsuits against the state and get compensation for their suffering.
About the Thomas Waxter Children’s Center
The Thomas Waxter Children’s Center (“Waxter”) was a juvenile correctional and detention facility run by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and located in Laurel. Waxter served as a detention facility for female juvenile offenders from the early 1950s until the facility was shut down in January 2022.
At its height, Waxter had an inmate capacity of 165, making it the most significant female juvenile detention and correction facility in Maryland. Waxter housed female juvenile offenders who had been sentenced to detention based on repeat offenses or crimes involving violence. At one point, Waxter also included a secure, committed treatment program for special needs youth.
Waxter’s detainees were housed in secure dormitory-style facilities. They attended school at the facility on a regular schedule of 6 hours a day for five days a week. They also received medical and mental health counseling services on-site. The facility also provided space for recreational activities.
The center was named after Thomas J.S. Waxter, a well-respected judge and advocate for juvenile justice reform in Maryland. The facility was intended to provide secure detention for female juveniles awaiting court decisions or placement in more long-term facilities. Its goal was also to provide care and rehabilitation for these youth. However, the Waxter Children’s Center did not live up to its namesake.
The center has been noted in various reports and articles over the years for having issues with safety, security, and conditions for the juveniles housed there. It has been the subject of scrutiny and criticism, similar to many juvenile facilities across the United States, which have been challenged for their treatment of young offenders and the effectiveness of their rehabilitation efforts.
New Lawsuits Allege Sexual Abuse at Waxter
A group of 50 individuals have come forward with accusations of childhood sexual abuse within Maryland’s juvenile justice facilities, some reporting incidents from as early as age seven. Waxter was one of the primary facilities named in the lawsuits.
These sex abuse lawsuits detail horrifying instances of repeated rape and molestation of minors under state care at Waxter (and other places), highlighting the state’s negligence in protecting these children and its failure to implement adequate oversight to prevent such abuses. The allegations include children being sexually abused in their locked rooms.
These allegations coincided with the enactment of a new law in the state that broadens the rights of child sex abuse victims and initiates a series of civil actions against the state. These legal claims span over five decades, involving abuse in six different juvenile justice centers, bringing Maryland’s state government under scrutiny amidst a broader justice movement fueled by legislative reform.
Child Sexual Abuse Victims Can Now Get Compensation
Anyone who was the victim of childhood sexual abuse at Waxter or any other juvenile detention or correctional facility (state or private) can now file a civil lawsuit against that facility and get financial compensation. Under the new Maryland Child Victims Act which took effect in October 2023, civil lawsuits based on sexual abuse that occurred when the victim was a child (under age 18) are no longer subject to any statute of limitations. This means that child sex abuse victims can file lawsuits even for incidents that occurred decades ago.
What Qualifies as “Sexual Abuse or Assault”?
For legal purposes, sexual abuse or sexual assault is defined as any type of unwanted and non-consensual sexual contact or touching. The two essential elements that define sexual assault are (1) lack of consent and (2) sexual intent. Children cannot legally consent to sexual contact, so any case involving a child satisfies the first element. As for sexual intent, this element requires that the touching involve sexual parts of the body and be done with the purpose of sexual gratification.
When Can a Juvenile Facility Be Liable for Sexual Abuse
When a child is the victim of sexual abuse or assault at a juvenile facility or juvenile detention center like Waxter, that facility can be held liable in a civil lawsuit for negligently failing to protect the victim or prevent the abuse from happening. In most cases, the sexual abuse occurred at the facility and was committed by staff members. In that situation, the facility will have clear liability for the incident. Even when another inmate or juvenile commits the abuse or assault, the facility can still be held liable for failing to provide adequate protection.
Settlement Value of Sex Abuse Lawsuits Against the State
The settlement value of a child sexual abuse lawsuit against a juvenile detention facility like Waxter will be driven by a variety of factors, such as:
- Nature of the Abuse: the nature and severity of the sexual abuse or assault is the main factor driving the settlement value of these cases.
- Evidence: Cases where the sexual abuse is supported by solid evidence, aside from the just the word of the victim, have a higher settlement value.
- Liability Theory: An abuse case against a facility will have a higher settlement value if the plaintiff has a strong negligence claim against the facility.
In a lawsuit brought under the new Maryland Child Victims Act (CVA) for sexual abuse that occurred a long time ago, the maximum amount of compensation that a plaintiff can get is $850,000 when a state-run facility is a defendant. This is because the CVA includes a cap on damages for cases brought against state schools or facilities.
Contact Us About Sex Abuse Lawsuits
If you are thinking about bringing a sexual abuse lawsuit against a juvenile detention facility like Waxter, contact our sex abuse lawyers today for free consultation. Contact us online or call us at 800-553-8082.