A state investigation into a Virginia detention center found that, yes, migrant children have in the past been tied down to chairs and had mesh bags placed over their heads by guards. But according to the investigators who looked into a series of allegations following an order from Governor Ralph Northam, none of this counts as abuse.
“[I]nvestigators concluded the harsh treatment described by detainees at the Shenandoah Valley juvenile center did not meet the state’s legal threshold of abuse or neglect, according to a copy of the findings issued on Monday by the Virginia department of juvenile justice,” The Guardian reports.
A group of detained children had alleged being abused at Shenandoah Valley, including being beaten and locked away naked in solitary. This is torture. “The incidents are described in sworn statements from six Latino teens included in a class-action lawsuit filed in November,” the AP reports, “and are alleged to have occurred from 2015 to 2018, under both the Obama and Trump administrations.”
But, investigators weren’t able to interview these kids because they had already been transferred elsewhere—or deported. They were also prevented from reviewing medical records and other files, because of course. “The legal advocacy group representing the Latino teens suing the facility called the state’s review ‘deeply flawed,’” the AP continues, “and said the investigators never contacted them or asked to speak to their clients.”
What investigators did do is make suggestions regarding hiring more bilingual workers “and improving screening to provide care for detainees who suffer from mental health issues.” What they need to do is explain how being strapped down and having your head covered with a bag isn’t abuse. Could any parent really stand back and watch their child be treated this way and then say it’s not abusive? If the standards allow children to be treated this way, change the damned standards.
Allegations of abuse at child detention facilities are not new, continue, and have been seen in other facilities contracted by the federal government to detain migrant children. In late July, Judge Dolly Gee ordered officials to transfer most migrant children out of a Texas facility, following a class-action lawsuit that included allegations of forced drugging. Believe the children, and get them the hell out of these places.