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Immigrants at a Detention Center in Virginia Say They Were Abused by Guards

The Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Virginia is facing allegations of beating, handcuffing and locking immigrant children in solitary confinement, and leaving them, “nude and shivering in concrete cells,” according to Time.

Federal Court Filings include sworn statements from Latino teenagers who were housed in the detention center. One Honduran immigrant said, “Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me. They also put a bag over your head.”

An average of 92 immigrant children, primarily from Mexico and Central America, are held in the center each year and many of them are fleeing their home country because of gang violence and drug cartels. All of the children held there have not been convicted of any crimes. 

According to Time, “The lawsuit filed against Shenandoah alleges that young Latino immigrants held there ‘are subjected to unconstitutional conditions that shock the conscience, including violence by staff, abusive and excessive use of seclusion and restraints, and the denial of necessary mental health care.'”

The statements included in the case report that the conditions the immigrants were held in were allegedly poor and many altercations escalated to physical levels, with excessive force being used.  Many of the children were beaten while bound to a chair.

Due to the grotesque conditions, many of the immigrants sustained injuries, both physical and psychological. This led to the inmates engaging in self-harm by swallowing shampoo, cutting their wrists with glass and attempting to choke themselves. 

The facility is staffed by predominately white, non-Spanish speaking guards who are unqualified to deal with mental health issues. 

Lawyers for the center deny all allegations and a hearing for the case is set for July 3 in the Western District of Virginia. 

Lauryn is a 2014 graduate of Mars Hill University where she majored in Business with a concentration in marketing and finance. While in college Lauryn was the Founder and Editor of Her Campus Mars Hill. She is currently a candidate for her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She lives for a good plot twist, a great cup of coffee and new running shoes.