Glen Mills Reformatory in Pennsylvania, one of several buildings on campus property

Boys were sent to Glen Mills School from all over the nation, including from Florida. Regardless of where you resided before your stay in the institution, you have legal rights.

Opinion

By Susan Melony

There are many horror stories about the Glen Mills Reformatory in Pennsylvania that are coming to light. Glen Mills is a youth detention center that the authorities shut down recently.

Dozens of current and former residents came forward, each one talking about horrific abuses they witnessed and personally endured. Their tales shocked Pennsylvania residents, as well as many others across the United States.

It’s hard to hear about what many of these youths experienced, yet we owe it to them to listen. Let’s go a little deeper into this story and talk about what we can learn from it.

What Happened at Glen Mills?

If you want to learn what happened at Glen Mills, there are now multiple stories about it. Before we get into all the details, though, you should know that if you were one of the children the staff there abused, you can get in on a class-action lawsuit to get financial compensation for your torment.

The former students there allege that the staff:

  • Threatened them with death
  • Raped and sexually assaulted them
  • Kicked, hit, and stepped on students

That wasn’t all. The staff pushed students into appliances, walls, or doors. They choked them on some occasions, beat them, or spat on them. They denied them medical attention and berated them, including using racial slurs and profanity.

This is horrifying, but the worst part is that the former students allege that this took place over a more than forty-year period. It’s hard to imagine that something like this could happen for so long, and yet there is abundant evidence that it did.

How Did This Continue?

At this juncture, a logical query would be, “how did this mistreatment go on for so long?” That’s not an easy or simple question to answer. Essentially, it comes down to two components:

  • The victims seldom talked about what happened because they did not think anyone would believe them;
  • When a victim did talk, they couldn’t find anyone to listen to them and take what they said seriously.

In 2018, a surveillance camera video surfaced. Two school counselors were abusing a seventeen-year-old boy. In the video, he said, “I can’t breathe,” in a scene eerily reminiscent of the police killing Eric Garner on Staten Island several years before, or the police killing George Floyd more recently.

The councilors faced criminal charges, and the reformatory faced increased scrutiny. As evidence mounted, the problem’s full scope became clear. The authorities shut down the reformatory early this year.

Two things are evident, though. The first is that this was a condoned and accepted institutional counselor behavioral method. The second is that the authorities never did anywhere near enough to check up on the children’s welfare.

What Might We Do to Prevent This in the Future?

We can do two things to attempt to prevent this sort of atrocity from happening in the future. The first is that parents or guardians need to check up on their children regularly.

They might have issues, which is what leads parents or guardians to put them in this type of facility in the first place. That does not mean the parents or guardians should lock them up and throw away the key.

The second thing is that those responsible for a facility’s running need to do a better job of weeding out the sadistic individuals who commit these acts. Someone, at some level, needed to step forward. That didn’t happen, not for decades, and countless juveniles suffered.

The Glen Mills Lawsuit

If there is a silver lining, the class-action lawsuit now exists that can hopefully get compensation for some of the individuals who went through such mental and physical abuses. You do not have to be a current Pennsylvania resident to take part in the lawsuit.

You also don’t have to worry about why your parents or guardians sent you there. Regardless of your youthful indiscretions, that does not mean you should have suffered as you did.

Those who want to join the class-action should also know that you would not need to have the money for an up-front or hourly payment structure. The lawyers will accept a contingency payment plan, so if they can’t get money for you, you won’t have to pay anything.

The money you might get is small comfort for the horrors you endured, but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully, in the future, the parents and administrators will do a better job of making sure nothing like this happens again.

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