Tag Archives: Virginia

Immigrant children detained in Virginia facility say they were beaten while handcuffed and left nude in concrete cells

Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Virginia

Michael Biesecker, Jake Pearson and Garance Burke,

Associated Press

Jun. 21, 2018,

  • Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia, say they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement
  • Some also allege they were left nude and shivering in concrete cells.
  • The claims are detailed in federal court filings that include a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens jailed there for months or years.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.

The abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia, are detailed in federal court filings that include a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens jailed there for months or years. Multiple detainees say the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.

“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move. … They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”

In addition to the children’s first-hand, translated accounts in court filings, a former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility independently told The Associated Press this week that she saw kids there with bruises and broken bones they blamed on guards. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the children’s cases.

In court filings, lawyers for the detention facility have denied all allegations of physical abuse.

Many of the children were sent there after U.S. immigration authorities accused them of belonging to violent gangs, including MS-13. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited gang activity as justification for his crackdown on illegal immigration.

Trump said Wednesday that “our Border Patrol agents and our ICE agents have done one great job” cracking down on MS-13 gang members. “We’re throwing them out by the thousands,” he said.

But a top manager at the Shenandoah center said during a recent congressional hearing that the children did not appear to be gang members and were suffering from mental health issues resulting from trauma that happened in their home countries — problems the detention facility is ill-equipped to treat.

“The youth were being screened as gang-involved individuals. And then when they came into our care, and they were assessed by our clinical and case management staff … they weren’t necessarily identified as gang-involved individuals,” said Kelsey Wong, a program director at the facility. She testified April 26 before a Senate subcommittee reviewing the treatment of immigrant children apprehended by the Homeland Security Department.

Most children held in the Shenandoah facility who were the focus of the abuse lawsuit were caught crossing the border illegally alone. They were not the children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration’s recent policy and are now in the government’s care.

But the facility there operates under the same program run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. It was not immediately clear whether any separated children have been sent to Shenandoah Valley since the Trump administration in April announced its “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrant families, after the lawsuit was filed.

The Shenandoah lockup is one of only three juvenile detention facilities in the United States with federal contracts to provide “secure placement” for children who had problems at less-restrictive housing. The Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility in California has faced litigation over immigrant children mischaracterized as gang members. In Alexandria, Virginia, a board overseeing the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center voted this week to end its contract to house federal immigration detainees, bowing to public pressure.

The Shenandoah detention center was built by a coalition of seven nearby towns and counties to lock up local kids charged with serious crimes. Since 2007, about half the 58 beds are occupied by both male and female immigrants between the ages of 12 and 17 facing deportation proceedings or awaiting rulings on asylum claims. Though incarcerated in a facility similar to a prison, the children detained on administrative immigration charges have not yet been convicted of any crime.

Virginia ranks among the worst states in the nation for wait times in federal immigration courts, with an average of 806 days before a ruling. Nationally, only about half of juveniles facing deportation are represented by a lawyer, according to Justice Department data.

On average, 92 immigrant children each year cycle through Shenandoah, most of them from Mexico and Central America.

Wong said many of the 30 or so children housed there on any given day have mental health needs that would be better served in a residential treatment unit. But such facilities are often unwilling to accept children with significant behavioral issues, she said.

Wong and other managers at the Shenandoah center, including Executive Director Timothy J. Smith, did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment this week. A city manager on the local commission that oversees the facility referred questions to an official at the Refugee Resettlement agency, who did not respond to a phone message.

Financial statements reviewed by AP shows the local government commission that operates the center received nearly $4.2 million in federal funds last year to house the immigrant children — enough to cover about two-thirds of the total operating expenses.

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 complaint filed by the nonprofit Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs recounts the story of an unnamed 17-year-old Mexican citizen apprehended at the southern border. The teen fled an abusive father and violence fueled by drug cartels to seek asylum in the United States in 2015.

After stops at facilities in Texas and New York, he was transferred to Shenandoah in April 2016 and diagnosed during an initial screening by a psychologist with three mental disorders, including depression. Besides weekly sessions speaking with a counselor, the lawsuit alleges the teen has received no further mental health treatment, such as medications that might help regulate his moods and behavior.

The lawsuit recounts multiple alleged violent incidents between Latino children and staff at the Shenandoah center. It describes the guards as mostly white, non-Spanish speakers who are undertrained in dealing with individuals with mental illness. The suit alleges staff members routinely taunt the Latino youths with racially charged epithets, including “wetback,” ″onion head” and “pendejo,” which roughly translates to dumbass in Spanish.

A 16-year-old who said he had lived in Texas with his mother since he was an infant ended up at Shenandoah in September after a police officer pulled over a car he was riding in and asked for ID, which he couldn’t provide. As one of the few Latino kids who is fluent in English, the teen would translate for other detainees the taunts and names the staff members were calling them. He said that angered the guards, resulting in his losing such modest privileges as attending art classes.

“If you are behaving bad, resisting the staff when they try to remove you from the program, they will take everything in your room away — your mattress, blanket, everything,” he said. “They will also take your clothes. Then they will leave you locked in there for a while. This has happened to me, and I know it has happened to other kids, too.”

The immigrant detainees said they were largely segregated from the mostly white juveniles being held on criminal charges, but they could see that the other housing units had amenities that included plush chairs and video gaming consoles not available in the Spartan pods housing the Latinos.

In their sworn statements, the teens reported spending the bulk of their days locked alone in their cells, with a few hours set aside for classroom instruction, recreation and meals. Some said they had never been allowed outdoors, while the U.S.-born children were afforded a spacious recreation yard.

The Latino children reported being fed sparse and often cold meals that left them hungry, though meals of American fast food were occasionally provided. Records show Shenandoah receives nearly $82,000 a year from the Agriculture Department to feed the immigration detainees.

The lawsuit said the poor conditions, frequent physical searches and verbal abuse by staff often escalated into confrontations, as the frustrated children acted out. The staff regularly responded “by physically assaulting the youth, applying an excessive amount of force that goes far beyond what is needed to establish or regain control.”

In the case of the Mexican 17-year-old, the lawsuit said a staff member who suspected him of possessing contraband threw him to the ground and forcibly tore off his clothes for an impromptu strip search. Though no forbidden items were found, the teenager was transferred to “Alpha Pod,” described in the lawsuit as a unit within the facility designated for children who engage in bad behavior.

The lawsuit said Latino children were frequently punished by being restrained for hours in chairs, with handcuffs and cloth shackles on their legs. Often, the lawsuit alleged, the children were beaten by staff while bound.

As a result of such “malicious and sadistic applications of force,” the immigrant youths have “sustained significant injuries, both physical and psychological,” the lawsuit said.

After an altercation during which the lawsuit alleged the Mexican teenager bit a staff member during a beating, he was restrained in handcuffs and shackles for 10 days, resulting in bruises and cuts. Other teens interviewed as part of the court case also reported being punished for minor infractions with stints in solitary confinement, during which some of the children said they were left nude and shivering in cold concrete cells.

Academic studies of prison inmates kept in solitary confinement have found they often experience high anxiety that can cause panic attacks, paranoia and disordered thinking that may trigger angry outbursts. For those with mental health issues, the effects can be exacerbated, often worsening the very behaviors the staff is attempting to discourage.

A Guatemalan youth sent to the center when he was 14 years old said he was often locked in his tiny cell for up to 23 hours a day. After resisting the guards, he said he was also restrained for long periods.

“When they couldn’t get one of the kids to calm down, the guards would put us in a chair — a safety chair, I don’t know what they call it — but they would just put us in there all day,” the teen said in a sworn statement. “This happened to me, and I saw it happen to others, too. It was excessive.”

A 15-year-old from Mexico held at Shenandoah for nine months also recounted being restrained with a bag over his head.

“They handcuffed me and put a white bag of some kind over my head,” he said, according to his sworn statement. “They took off all of my clothes and put me into a restraint chair, where they attached my hands and feet to the chair. They also put a strap across my chest. They left me naked and attached to that chair for two and a half days, including at night.”

After being subjected to such treatment, the 17-year-old Mexican youth said he tried to kill himself in August, only to be punished with further isolation. On other occasions, he said, he has responded to feelings of desperation and hopelessness by cutting his wrists with a piece of glass and banging his head against the wall or floor.

“One time I cut myself after I had gotten into a fight with staff,” the teen recounted. “I filled the room with blood. This happened on a Friday, but it wasn’t until Monday that they gave me a bandage or medicine for the pain.”

The lawsuit alleges other immigrant youths held at Shenandoah have also engaged in cutting and other self-harming behaviors, including ingesting shampoo and attempting to choke themselves.

A hearing in the case is set for July 3 before a federal judge in the Western District of Virginia.

Lawyers on both sides in the lawsuit either did not respond to messages or declined to comment, citing strict confidentiality requirements in the case involving children.

The child development specialist who previously worked with teens at Shenandoah told AP that many there developed severe psychological problems after experiencing abuse from guards.

“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.”

She said she never witnessed staff abuse teens first-hand, but that teens would complain to her of injuries from being tackled by guards and reveal bruises. The specialist encouraged them to file a formal complaint.

Though lawyers for Shenandoah responded with court filings denying all wrongdoing, information contained in a separate 2016 lawsuit appears to support some of the information contained in the recent abuse complaints.

In a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Shenandoah center, a former staff member said he worked in unit called “Alpha Pod” where immigrant minors were held, “including those with psychological and mental issues and those who tend to fight more frequently.”

The guard, Trenton Farris, who denied claims that he punched two children, sued the justice center alleging he was wrongly targeted for firing because he is black. Farris said most staff members at the facility are white, and that two white staff members involved in the incident over which he was fired went unpunished.

Lawyers for the center denied the former guard’s claims, and the case was settled in January.

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CONTINUE READING…

Pearson reported from New York and Burke reported from San Francisco.

SEE ALSO: ‘Children don’t belong in jail’: Critics are seizing on Trump’s executive order to detain entire families together

Mother & Daughter Camp In Trees For 34 days To Stop Pipeline

May 15th, 2018 by Kurt Lowder

Renewable energy is getting a boost as grassroot campaigns to stop pipelines and other fossil fuel developments are springing up organically all over the world. Terry and Minor Red, who are mother and daughter, were able to hold up a EQT Midstream Partners pipeline for at least 34 days. The mother-daughter combo only gave up after being found in contempt of court and were facing a DAILY $1000 dollar fine. They may have lost the battle, but this war is far from over.

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Subsequent to the protest, they were later charged with trespassing on their own property, among other charges.

This is the type of brilliant story that the majority of corporate media routinely ignore as they tell us the 33rd new development of the Stormy Daniels case. Look, I get it that the Stormy Daniels could potentially lead to some type of Watergate moment, but with a 24-hour news cycle, maybe the media could spare an hour for this type of heroic story. 

Of course, telling this story would jeopardize losing their fat check from the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel groups that advertise for seemingly no apparent reason other than an implicit bribe to not cover environmental stories that matter. According to Huffpost, in at least one week in March, CNN gave more ad time to these fossil fuel public relations groups than it spent covering climate change. 

“In the third week of March, after it was announced that February had been the hottest month on record, CNN aired four minutes of climate change stories. It broadcast 10 minutes of ads from API. During that same time, the study noted that CNN also aired dozens of ads from Koch Industries.”

Delaying a pipeline for 34 days is costly, and the fossil fuel industry cannot risk stories like this being told to the masses. These pipelines have to cross numerous properties. If only a small fraction of landowners put up a principled resistance against them, the pipelines may well be scrapped. For them to profit, they need an uninformed, apathetic public that believes eminent domain really applies to their business.

The fossil fuel industry uses eminent domain routinely in ways it was never intended. In this case, Roanoke Gas, which is the local utility in the Terry family’s community, only owns a 0.5% interest in this pipeline. Through this nonsensical technicality, EQT Midstream Partners was able to attain eminent domain under a law written in 1938.

My father worked for Caltrans, the California Highway Department, as a right-of-way agent. He appraised the land needed for highway construction and negotiated a fair price with land owners. Nearly all landowners understood the need and quickly agreed to a price slightly above market value. It was my father’s job to treat them with respect and offer them a more than fair compensation.

At the age of 5, I still remember eating an open-faced tuna sandwich made by the landowner with whom my Dad was negotiating. I was baffled by the fact it was missing the second piece of bread, but the old lady was so nice I would not dare ask for a second piece of bread.  It was one of the best days of my life. That morning, I got the word I did not have to go to school and would instead be heading up the coast of California towards Monterrey. I can still smell the coastal Californian pines.

Now those very trees are being threatened by the misuse of eminent domain that is allowing climate change to continue, and it makes me sick to my stomach. Fossil fuels are being given an unfair advantage in the marketplace as they cut corners and behave as the mafia does. Eminent domain is only supposed to be exercised for the public’s good, and clearly these gargantuan pipelines are not good for the public. They are choking us and planet. They are polluting our water and soil.

The childhood experience I explained above was the exact opposite of how Terry Red and daughter Minor Red were treated. Landowners are being harshly intimidated and surveilled by private security forces who frequently wear masks. They enter and exit landowners property at will and without permission.  These pipelines are being pushed through without due diligence as government officials of both parties are legally bribed with campaign contributions. Our police are being deputized by the pipeline builders and their associates in the industry.

The worst part is that the natural gas running through this pipeline is being exported far away from the communities through which the pipeline passes. This private company and police continually slithered around numerous laws to greenlight this project as quickly as possible. 

This pipeline is crossing numerous waterways and traversing steep, rocky, and mountainous terrain which greatly increasing environmental risks. According to Minor Terry, and contrary to the pipeline commercials, this pipeline is not state of the art. It is being thrown into the ground haphazardly. Major risks are being taken for major profits. This is not about the public good; it is about corporate profits.

The most shocking revelation within the interview is this 42-inch pipeline is the largest ever constructed, and should it explode, the blast radius is 2.5 miles. It could wipe out the entire Red Family who have been there seven generations.

In case you think natural gas pipelines are rare, here are few examples of natural gas pipeline explosions, all of which would pale in comparison to this pipeline exploding. 

Winnepeg, Canada

Texas pipeline explosion

Lafayette, Indiania

Pensylvania

West Virginia

Pennsylvania (aftermath Chared Houses)

Edison New Jersey

Spearmen Texas

Manitoba

Alabama

San Bruno California

Another important note is this pipeline requires approval from the executive branch of the US government, and the Democratic Governor also has significant power over the process. Since 1999, only two pipelines have been denied by Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC). The interview with Red and Terry Minor goes into greater detail on these points and more. 

Here is a more detailed analysis of natural gas and pipeline explosions than I could ever do. Journalist George Joseph of CityLab wrote, “Over the last thirty years, just under 9,000 significant pipeline-related incidents have taken place nationwide, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. (Not counted in this total are thousands of less “significant” pipeline-related malfunctions.)”

The pipeline company paid third parties to hastily conduct pathetic archaeological digs. Even though numerous Native American artifacts were found, the pipeline process was not hindered.  Often Native American representatives are not allowed to be present on these digs. In effect, they are rapidly walking through motions with these archeological digs. Remember, it is pipeline companies paying the third parties, and not the government.

I will spare you any further summaries of the interview, because I really encourage you to watch this interview with Red and Terry Minor. It is full of information and great humor. These powerful ladies really know their stuff. You will remember their story long after you forget the important pipeline explosions statistics. It is these type of stories that will create a critical mass of people required to lead the transition away from using natural gas to renewable energy to power and heat our homes.

The Terry family provides multiple reasons why renewable energy is far superior to natural gas, irrespective of the climate change consequences. They noted there were plenty of great Virginian jobs to be had in wind and solar. These important arguments are extremely useful to environmental advocates who have to opportunity to converse with individuals who are not motivated about climate change.

I encourage you to use a diversity of attacks as you have opportunities to converse with others. Listen more than you speak. Remember that while science is based on statistics, facts, etc., stories are important too. People remember stories and are motivated to act by them. Science, in fact, has proven the importance of stories (anecdotes) in affecting individual behavior and societal change.

A few more notes on Jordan Chariton, formerly of TYT politics. While with TYT politics, he provided excellent coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Protests. He has covered Flint Michigan (among hundreds of other cities with poisoned water across the country) and the Trans Pecos pipeline in greater detail than anyone in the mainstream media. He has begun his own media company and you can support him on Patreon to help him continue to do real investigative reporting.

These pipelines are not just pissing off environmentalists. They are enraging Libertarians who strongly believe in property rights. The two are joining forces in ways never imagined.

PLEASE CONTINUE READING!

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/05/15/mother-daughter-camp-in-trees-for-34-days-to-stop-pipeline/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=BPnJsMMIi5M