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State to settle suits on teen center abuse

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The state government has agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle lawsuits by 48 girls who said they were abused at a youth detention center near Birmingham.

Attorney General Troy King and David Marsh, one of several attorneys representing the girls, said Wednesday the parties had agreed to the terms of the settlement, but it had not yet been filed with the federal court in Birmingham.

The attorneys said they could not release the details until it is filed, but it will involve a payment by the state.

Jere Beasley, whose Montgomery firm is representing some of the girls, said the state will pay $12.5 million.

Allegations of sexual and physical abuse at the state Department of Youth Services detention center in Chalkville surfaced in 2001. Eventually, 15 employees were fired or resigned.

A dozen girls filed suit against DYS and some of its employees in 2001.

More suits followed, with 48 girls eventually suing in various state and federal courts. The girls were minors at the time, but all are now young women over 18.

Cynthia Totten, senior policy associate for Stop Prisoner Rape, said the settlement is “a measure of justice,” but the state should have pursued criminal charges against employees involved in the abuse.

The abuse case reached a major step in 2005, when U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler ruled those suing the agency “have presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that there was a history of widespread abuse by employees on the Chalkville campus,” and that the abuse was “obvious, flagrant, rampant and of continued duration.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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