US Marijuana Party

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Center leader blamed in sex abuse case

Montgomery Advertiser

The head of a juvenile detention center in Chalkville for years knew about the allegations of physical and sexual abuse by employees before firing anyone, according to a recent federal court opinion.

Eventually, 15 employees were fired or resigned after the allegations were made public in 2001. But memos and letters dating back to 1994 detail complaints from several girls who were locked up at the Department of Youth Services' Chalkville campus, showing that Superintendent James Caldwell was aware of the allegations for several years, said U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler in his Aug. 1 opinion.

A dozen girls filed the 2001 lawsuit against the state agency, saying male staffers had fondled, raped and sexually harassed them. By 2002, the number of plaintiffs more than tripled, with additional allegations of physical abuse and sex surfacing.

Among the recently disclosed documents is a May 1994 memo from Caldwell to John Zeigler, who was a Chalkville security guard at the time. In it, Caldwell warns Zeigler about the girls' sexual abuse allegations.

"I made you aware that this is not the first time that accusations of this nature have come up about you and also noted that I had been told that you had a similar problem before transferring from Mt. Meigs," Caldwell says in the memo, in which he also cautions Zeigler to be "discreet" when working with students.



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