High Impact Project Case Update: Successful Suit to End Mistreatment of Boys in a Juvenile Detention Center in Iowa

The Barbara McDowell Foundation is pleased to report the successful outcome of a case initiated under the auspices of its High Impact Project

Children’s Rights, the law firm of Ropes & Gray, and Disability Rights Iowa succeeded after trial in the case, C.P.X. v. Garcia (formerly known as C.P.X. v. Foxhoven and G.R. v. Foxhoven), that was filed in November 2017 on behalf of boys confined to Iowa’s Boys State Training School who have significant mental illnesses.  

The lawsuit asserted that the State, in order to control these boys, age 12 to 19, relied upon potentially harmful psychotropic medications administered without appropriate oversight or consent, solitary confinement, and full-body mechanical restraints, instead of providing proper mental health treatment. Plaintiffs claimed violations of their right to substantive due process, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. 

The trial court in a 116 page decision found that the School violated the boys’ constitutional rights in the manner in which it punished and tortured students. It ordered that the school submit a plan to remedy these constitutional deficiencies in its mental health treatment programs, provide effective psychotherapy and treatment plans, cease the use of solitary confinement/isolation except where the student’s behavior poses a risk of physical harm to any person, not use physical restraints, the so-called “wrap,” and arrange for staff training. The Court further ordered the appointment of a monitor to oversee the school’s performance to ensure that the school meets its rehabilitative and treatment goals. The Court’s decision appears here.