COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - New lawsuits filed against the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice say four teenage girls were sexually assaulted and a fifth teen was beaten during a December riot at the department’s Columbia evaluation center.
The two suits were filed separately by two guardians of young women who were in DJJ at the time. One of the youths says she was beaten while the other says she was sexually assaulted.
These lawsuits say back on December 15, several female inmates got into an argument.
They say some of them were escorted into another hallway by a guard on site – but the unit door opened and girls within the unit ran into the hall. This led to several physical fights, the lawsuits claim.
One of the girls says she was violently attacked and eventually lost consciousness. She was taken to a hospital, treated and released.
The lawsuit says she suffered “permanent scarring, permanent impairment and disability both physically and mentally.”
It also says that the guard on the scene “inexplicably passed out” while trying to help the injured girl.
The lawsuits also say during the time of the fight, a group of male juvenile inmates were inside a nearby gym and broke into the hallway.
The teen involved in one of the lawsuits says she was grabbed by one of those inmates and pulled into the gym where she and three others were sexually assaulted. They were also treated at an area hospital before being released.
Both of the lawsuits claim there were not enough staff on site, saying that allowed the girls to be overpowered. They also blame overcrowding.
They also claim a DJJ policy that says juvenile inmates must be housed according to classifications of violent or nonviolent was not followed. The lawsuits claim the youth were not separated until around 10 days after they arrived.
The lawsuits say DJJ also failed to properly investigate what happened.
When WIS reached out, SCDJJ said it cannot comment on pending litigation.