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Press Release

Former Captain of Arkansas Juvenile Detention Center Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy to Assault Juvenile Detainees

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Former Captain of the White River Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Peggy Kendrick, 45, was sentenced yesterday to prison for her role in conspiring to assault juvenile inmates, assaulting a 16-year-old juvenile, and obstructing justice by falsifying incident reports about that assault. Kendrick, who served as captain and administrator of the detention center, and was in charge of its daily operations, was sentenced to 84 months in prison and three years of supervised release, announced Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland of the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Special Agent in charge Diane Upchurch of the FBI Little Rock Field Office.

“This defendant abused her power as Captain and attempted to cover up the assault of young inmates under her care and custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively enforce our nation’s laws and hold officers who break the law and mistreat inmates accountable.”

“As former Captain of the facility, this defendant was in a position of trust. Her behavior towards these children violated that trust, and the sentence shows these actions will not go unpunished,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Cody Hiland.

“We are morally, constitutionally, and legally obligated to treat juvenile inmates humanely.  The sentencing reflects our commitment to investigate the mistreatment of inmates by the people in charge of them,” stated Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch with the Little Rock FBI Field Office. “We appreciate the efforts of our partners at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas and the FBI.”

On April 26, 2017, Kendrick pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to assault juvenile inmates at the White River facility. According to the plea documents, Kendrick assaulted and physically punished juvenile detainees who posed no threat, including by spraying them in the face with pepper spray. In some instances, she then shut the compliant juveniles in their cells after pepper spraying them to “let them cook,” or continue suffering the effects of the pepper spray, rather than immediately decontaminating them. Kendrick also encouraged other juvenile detention officers to unjustifiably assault juveniles and to falsify their incident reports to cover up the assaults.

Kendrick also pleaded guilty to assaulting a 16-year-old girl by pepper spraying her in the face for failing to follow directions. At the time, the girl, who was in the detention center as part of the “Families in Need of Service” program and had not been charged with any crime, was standing in the back corner of her cell with her arms folded, and not posing a physical threat to anyone or physically resisting in any way. Kendrick covered up the assault by writing an incident report falsely claiming that the girl had clenched her fist and stepped toward Kendrick in an aggressive manner.

Kendrick was sentenced yesterday by United States District Court Judge James M. Moody Jr. On March 14, Judge Moody sentenced Dennis Fuller, 41, who served as Kendrick’s lieutenant, to 36 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy. 

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Little Rock Division. Trial Attorneys Samantha Trepel and Michael J. Songer of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant United States Attorneys Julie Peters and Pat Harris of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas prosecuted the case.

Updated April 19, 2019

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 19-396