LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former youth detention officer in northeastern Arkansas has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for what a judge called “sadistic and completely unjustified” actions in punishing disorderly juveniles.
This comes nearly two years after Peggy Kendrick admitted to violating the civil rights of teens at the White River Regional Juvenile Detention Facility in Batesville by pepper-spraying them for minor violations then “letting them cook” with the irritant on their skin in locked cells. She also ordered subordinate jailers to follow suit.
U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. on Thursday sentenced the 43-year-old to 13 more months than the highest penalty due to the severity of her actions, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Moody said an “upward variance” from the guideline range was merited because Kendrick pleaded guilty to multiple charges which included conspiracy to violate the rights of detainees, assaulting then-16-year-old Elizabeth Lollis on Oct. 14, 2013, and falsifying a report related to Lollis’ assault.
Hollis, who came to Little Rock from Montana to make a victim-impact statement, said that she was held at the detention facility on a Family in Need of Services petition, which asks for a provisional protective environment for youths dealing with troubled conditions at home.
Kendrick held a leadership role, betraying the detained children and the public, Moody said, adding that her actions were sadistic and unjustified.
The facility holds up to 75 youths between the ages of 5 and 21.
Lollis, 22, said she still has nightmares about Kendrick storming into her cell, confronting her about a profane message she transcribed on the wall using toothpaste, and pepper-spraying her in the face. A video camera in Lollis’ cell captured the incident.
Lollis noted she forgives Kendrick and hopes she can “learn from this.”
Last month, Moody sentenced Kendrick’s former chief assistant to three years in prison. Dennis Fuller, 41, had also pleaded guilty to violating the youths’ civil rights. But he provided the FBI with comprehensive information and testified against two former guards who were both later acquitted by a federal jury in December.
Prosecutors noted Fuller is credited with assuming the duties of Kendrick’s job and executing changes to enhance conditions for the detainees.