Va. governor orders probe of abuse claims by children

WASHINGTON (AP) — Virginia’s governor ordered state officials on Thursday to investigate abuse claims by children at an immigration detention facility who said they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.

Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced the probe in a tweet hours after The Associated Press reported the allegations. They were included in a federal civil rights lawsuit with a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino youths held for months or years at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia. The AP report also cited an adult who saw bruises and broken bones the children said were caused by guards.

Multiple detainees as young as 14 said guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads. The incidents described in the lawsuit occurred from 2015 to 2018, during both the Obama and Trump administrations.

“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. “They also put a bag over your head.”

In addition to the children’s first-hand, translated accounts in court filings, a former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility said she saw kids there with bruises and broken bones they blamed on guards. She spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lawyers for the detention facility have denied all allegations of physical abuse.