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Lawyers for Immigrant Youth Alleging Abuse at Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Justice Center Rip Northam/Moran Report as “Deeply Flawed”

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The following statement is from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which represented the immigrant youth who made allegations of abuse at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Justice Center, in response to this report by this Ralph Northam/Brian Moran report “Reviewing Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Allegations.” I’ll just add that I chatted briefly with several Virginia legislators, and all of them expressed doubts, particularly about Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran (one point blank said they didn’t trust him, while another said that Moran didn’t want to get his people into trouble).

As for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, basically their conclusion is that the report is “deeply flawed,” “failed to assess the allegations of serious deficiencies in the mental health treatment of the detainees,” interviewed detainees “in the presence of facility personnel without their lawyers present, subjecting detainees who spoke candidly to potential retaliation,” etc. Not good at all.

Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Investigation Deeply Flawed

August 14, 2018

On August 8, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice reported to the Governor on its investigation of the treatment of unaccompanied minor immigrants detained in the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center. The report purports to find that the facility was in compliance with applicable regulations and certification standards. It makes no comment on whether the facility complies with Constitutional standards.

Notably:

  • The report failed to assess the allegations of serious deficiencies in the mental health treatment of the detainees, a key allegation in the pending federal court litigation and an unmet need recognized by Virginia CPS in its investigation.
  • The detainees were interviewed by DJJ staff in the presence of facility personnel without their lawyers present, subjecting detainees who spoke candidly to potential retaliation;
  • DJJ failed to contact counsel in the class action or consider any of the ample evidence produced nor to take into account the testimony of the expert witnesses offered in the litigation;
  • DJJ failed to look at the pattern of conduct over the last several years. For example, the litigation has well-documented examples of long periods of solitary confinement, use of restraints that were ignored by DJJ;
  • DJJ has endorsed practices regarding the punitive and excessive use of restraints and solitary confinement that are contrary to modern juvenile standards.

“The report to the Governor from the Department of Juvenile Justice is deeply flawed.” Said Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “The fact that they conducted all interviews under the watchful eye of detention staff and failed to even talk to counsel who have collected evidence and litigated the case for nearly a year, demonstrates a lack of seriousness in the review. The children in this facility are denied necessary mental health care and subjected to abusive conditions. We look forward to proving our case in Court.”