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Skillman Training School for Boys, Once a Beacon of Hope for Juvenile Delinquents, Cited in Lawsuit as a Hellhole of Abuse and Rape

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted May 2, 2024


The national law firm Levy Konigsberg filed a lawsuit in Somerset County Superior Court on April 22 on behalf of five men who were allegedly abused as boys at the New Jersey Training School (NJTS) in Montgomery Township.


The juvenile detention center had been located on Route 601 (Belle Mead-Blawenburg Road) on the site of the current Montgomery High School, but it closed in 1992 for budgetary reasons.


The five men, identified only by their initials in the lawsuit, are suing the state over sexual abuse they allegedly suffered while they were confined in the 1980s to the New Jersey Training School at Skillman, as first reported by Mike Deak of mycentraljersey.com. The litigants are now between the ages of 49 and 54.

Skillman

New Jersey Training School (aka the Lloyd McCorkle Training School) in Montgomery Township on Route 601 circa 1980s. Montgomery High School now occupies this location.


Once a Beacon of Promise and Hope

When the facility closed, it had been known as the Lloyd McCorkle Training School. A bill in the NJ Assembly, No. 1844, attempted to reopen the school in March 1998. According to the bill, the school "served approximately 200 juvenile delinquents, aged 12 through 17, and it offered a comprehensive program of basic academic education, vocational and technical training, substance abuse treatment, and counseling in a secure and disciplined atmosphere.”


“Because of the excellence of its program of academic education, the McCorkle School was the only corrections institution in New Jersey accredited by the NJ Department of Education and one of only five corrections institutions in the nation accredited by the American Correctional Association and the Correctional Education Association, permitting the juvenile inmates to earn high school credits toward a diploma or GED while serving their sentences,” according to the bill, which was sponsored in part by Bonnie Watson Coleman, who served in NJ General Assembly from 1998 to 2015. She is now a NJ Rep in the U.S. Congress.


Lawsuit Claims the Training School Was Horrific

The Levy Konigsberg firm, which has offices in New York City and Lawrence Township, is representing the five men, who are identified in the lawsuit by their initials, who allege they were sexually abused at the school in the 1980s by the guards, counselors, and other staff members “who were supposed to be looking out for them.”


The men suffered physical, psychological, and emotional injuries as a result of the sexual abuse, according to the lawsuit. The sexual abuse alleged at the Montgomery facility included inappropriate strip searches to rape using violent physical force. “Children who are sexually abused in state juvenile detention facilities rarely file grievances against staff due to fear of retaliation, or knowing they will not be believed,” according the complaint. As a result, much of the abuse was not reported due to threats of being sent to solitary confinement or losing visitation privileges, the lawsuit alleges.


Levy Konigsberg attorneys Moshe Maimon and Clark Binkley are representing the five men from the Montgomery facility. They also filed another lawsuit in January on behalf of 50 men who say they suffered sexual abuse when they were confined as juveniles at the New Jersey Training School, in Monroe — one of New Jersey’s oldest juvenile detention facilities. The Monroe facility is still open, but Gov. Phil Murphy has vowed to shut it down.


The 193-page lawsuit alleges that the boys housed at the New Jersey Training School in Monroe Township experienced a virtually unchecked history of sexual abuse. “For decades, children detained in New Jersey juvenile detention facilities have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of guards, counselors, and other agents of the State, all while defendant has had knowledge of, and turned a blind eye to, this culture of abuse,” the lawsuit says.


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The allegations outlined in the suit stretch from the 1970s to the 2010s and include dozens of harrowing details, including that guards, counselors and other staff sexually abused the boys at the facility and in woods around it and threatened them with further confinement if they divulged the abuse. As detailed in the lawsuit, “NJTS has for decades been an embarrassment for New Jersey and its mismanaged juvenile detention system,” according to a press release from PR Newswire.


“As early as the 1980s, reports emerged of the horrific conditions at NJTS and other state-run juvenile detention centers, including incidents of sexual abuse. At the time, the head of the state’s Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit noted that conditions at these facilities were likely to lead to increased rates of abuse. “Unfortunately, the warning signs went ignored by the state, and in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report finding NJTS to have one of the highest rates of sexual abuse among juvenile detention facilities nationwide.


“As a result of the state’s failure to act, generations of children suffered sexual abuse at the hands of guards, counselors, and other staff members who were supposed to be looking out for them.” The state has been given until June 17 to file an answer to that lawsuit. At the time the lawsuit was filed, Attorney General Matt Platkin said the allegations would be “swiftly and thoroughly” investigated.


The suits filed by Levy Konigsberg was brought under New Jersey’s Child Sexual Abuse Act (“CSAA”), a 2019 law that expanded the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits in cases of child sexual abuse. Most of the survivors seeking justice in this lawsuit were abused many years ago, some as far back as the 1970s. Despite the years and decades separating their experiences, the lawyers say the men whose claims were just recently filed in court experienced disturbingly similar patterns of abuse, evidencing a systemic failure by the state to protect the children in its care.

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