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Lawsuit accuses Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice and Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention officials of concealing abuse

11 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Nurses Ratliff and Tucker allege misconduct cover-up in a lawsuit against Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention officers and the Kentucky DJJ.

Lawsuit accuses Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice and Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention officials of concealing abuse - Inmate Lookup

Michelle Ratliff and Betty Tucker, two nurses who were employed at the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Northern Kentucky’s only juvenile detention center, have filed a lawsuit, claiming that officials at the facility attempted to conceal reports of sexual abuse.

The lawsuit, filed on November 20 in federal court in Covington, specifically names the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice and officials in charge of the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

The juvenile justice department hired Ratliff and Tucker early this year to provide nurse services to youths at the facility; Ratliff began in February and Tucker in May. According to the nurses, they discovered information about the abuse of underage girls at the facility and reported the misconduct to higher-ups.

Despite learning about a male corrections officer’s inappropriate relationship with at least one detainee in late April or early May, the lawsuit alleges that detention center administrators “concealed or did not otherwise immediately disclose the misconduct” to authorities.

Rather, the nurses claim, the management of the facility permitted the officer to carry on with his duties and have contact with the minors until the end of May, when he was suspended.

In the following months, the nurses reported the administrators’ failure to report misconduct to the FBI, Kentucky State Police, media outlets, and others. They assert that the FBI initiated an investigation into the alleged cover-up in July. However, the FBI’s field office in Louisville neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the investigation, following U.S. Department of Justice policy.

Following news articles in August about alleged misconduct and mismanagement at the detention center, the nurses claim that the facility’s management retaliated against them. The retaliation reportedly included warnings to other staff members that Ratliff and Tucker were untrustworthy and efforts to cease communication with them.

On August 30, Tucker lost her job at the detention center. Ratliff experienced the same fate on September 5.

The nurses claim that their termination was a direct result of their reporting abuse and poor management at the facility.

The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson, Morgan Hall, stated in an email that when the department became aware of the sexual abuse allegations, they took immediate action to terminate the employee. Hall emphasized that the department does not retaliate against employees, youth, or contract staff for reporting misconduct.

While the lawsuit does not name the officer involved, news reports earlier in the year identified corrections officer Neil Moorman, who was fired after allegations surfaced of inappropriate contact with one or more girls at the juvenile detention center.

A news organization was able to confirm Moorman’s termination on June 6 by obtaining his personnel file through a Kentucky Open Records Act request. He has not been the subject of any criminal accusations.

In hopes of obtaining compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to court costs and lawyer’s fees, Ratliff and Tucker are requesting that their case be tried in front of a jury.

According to the nurses, the juvenile justice department, as well as authorities at the facility, violated the Kentucky Whistleblower Act, denied them their First Amendment rights, and interfered with their ability to do business with the nursing organization that the state hired.

As the only all-girls detention center in the state, the 35-bed juvenile institution in Newport began operating in December. This decision came after riots at centers in Adair and Warren counties and was part of a statewide initiative to increase safety within the juvenile justice system.

Only five months after that, Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky declared a partial and temporary shutdown of the facility due to a staffing crisis. Local police officials criticized the decision, pointing out the challenges of transporting juveniles to detention facilities located hours away.