Four teenage girls have accused Ohio officials of failing to provide them with lawyers after guards physically or sexually assaulted them while they were in a juvenile prison, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The allegations are part of a federal lawsuit that claims Ohio’s Department of Youth Services routinely denies juveniles access to legal help. The accusations come a day after officials acknowledged that the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility – the state’s juvenile prison for girls – is the subject of two independent investigations in response to claims of sexual assault, beatings, and improper medical care.
“Defendants presently provide no adequate, effective and meaningful system for committed juveniles … to gain access to the courts,” the lawsuit states. “There is no governmental or other entity that routinely provides representation.” The four girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17, all say they were abused by male corrections officers. Two of the girls are from Hamilton County. One girl claims a guard sexually assaulted her last year, resulting in her placement in a special unit for prisoners on “suicide watch.”