US Court Documents Reveal – Immigrant Children Tied Down, Hooded, Beaten, Stripped and Drugged – An Associated Press report published Thursday gave details of the abuses committed last year against young Latino migrants at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia. Lawyers for the teenage victims sued the prison—a state facility run by a consortium of seven towns and cities in the Shenandoah Valley—and a court hearing is set for July.
Other allegations include that the Latino youth received worse food and facilities than local juvenile prisoners, mostly white, and that meals were frequently cold and inadequate, leaving the children hungry.
The AP interviewed an unnamed child development specialist who had worked with teens at Shenandoah. “The majority of the kids we worked with when we went to visit them were emotionally and verbally abused. I had a kid whose foot was broken by a guard,” she said. “They would get put in isolation for months for things like picking up a pencil when a guard had said not to move. Some of them started hearing voices that were telling them to hurt people or hurt themselves, and I knew when they had gotten to Shenandoah they were not having any violent thoughts.”
Because the children held at Shenandoah were unaccompanied minors, rather than separated from their families, there were some suggestions in the media that they had gang connections that somehow justified the brutal treatment. But according to the AP report, a program director at the facility said the youth had been screened for gang connections and were actually suffering from mental health issues resulting from trauma in their home countries.
The acts of torture involved multiple guards at the facility, which was run by a regional board but under the ultimate control of the state government, headed throughout this period by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. The new governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, who took office January 1, ordered a state investigation into the claims of abuse, but only after the AP report became public Thursday.
According to a half-dozen sworn statements, given by the victims in Spanish and then translated for filing with the federal court for the Western District of Virginia, children as young as 14 were beaten while handcuffed, tied down to chairs while stripped naked and hooded, and held for long periods in solitary confinement, sometimes naked and cold.