Immigrant youth, some as young as 14, have brought federal court filings against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center in the state of Virginia, saying that they were beaten while handcuffed and detained in solitary confinement for extended periods. The lawsuit also explained that they were detained in cells where they were left nude in shivering cold temperatures.
The court filings include a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens detained at the center for months or even years, according to Time. Some also claimed that detention guards stripped them naked, restrained them in chairs and put bags over their heads.
The lawsuit details that the young Latino immigrants were “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.”
A Honduran immigrant who was detained at the facility when he was 15 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.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former child-development specialist who worked at the detention center said she saw kids with broken bones and bruises. She said they blamed the injuries on the guards, according to The Associated Press.
Many of the children were transferred to the center after being accused of belonging to violent gangs, including the MS-13, by U.S. immigration authorities.
Defense lawyers representing the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile (detention) Center denied that physical abuse occurred on the premises.
The federal case comes amid revelations that the U.S. government separated 2,300 families in the past six weeks at the U.S.-Mexico border, holding children as young as four in cages in cold warehouses in border states. The warehouses have been likened to the U.S. Japanese internment camps during WWII.