Child Immigrant: I Was Strapped to Chair for 60 Hours

Federal lawsuit alleges abuse at Virginia detention center
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2018 1:10 PM CDT
Child Immigrant: I Was Strapped to Chair for 60 Hours
A person walks into the entrance of the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Va., on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Zachary Wajsgras)

Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while handcuffed and left nude and shivering for long periods in solitary confinement. The abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton are detailed in a federal lawsuit that includes a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens jailed there for months or years, reports the AP. Multiple detainees say the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads. One Mexican youth says he was strapped to a chair "for two and a half days, including at night." Another says he afterwards tried to kill himself and was punished further. A former child-development specialist who worked at the center tells the AP she saw kids with bruises and broken bones they blamed on guards.

Many of the children who crossed the southern border alone were sent there after immigration authorities accused them of belonging to violent gangs, including MS-13. But a top manager at the center said during a recent congressional hearing that the children did not appear to be gang members and were suffering from mental health issues resulting from trauma that happened in their home countries—problems the detention facility is ill-equipped to treat. Since 2007, about half the 58 beds are occupied by both male and female immigrants between the ages of 12 and 17 facing deportation proceedings or awaiting rulings on asylum claims. In addition to subjecting such immigrants to beatings, mostly white guards are accused of taunting the children with racially charged epithets. In court filings, lawyers for the detention facility have denied all allegations of physical abuse. More details here. (More immigration stories.)

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