Judge dismisses lawsuit against Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

Published: Jul. 29, 2019 at 6:06 PM EDT
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A federal judge dismissed

against Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center last week that accused the facility of abuse against undocumented minors.

Filed in October 2017, the suit initially

and solitary confinement of immigrant chldren as young as 14.

It included claims that children were were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells. Lawyers for the detention center denied any wrongdoing.

However, those who filed the lawsuit steadily lost any of the complainants willing to testify about the accusations. They were given until January to substitute a new representative of the claims to "pursue a claim of constitutionally inadequate mental health care," but were unable to do so, requiring them to withdraw their claims of excessive force, restraints and isolation.

Gov. Ralph Northam ordered state officials to investigate the claims in June of 2018 after a report from The Associated Press. In August, the state review

the harsh treatment described by detainees did not meet the state's legal threshold of abuse or neglect, though they did confirm the use of restraint techniques that can include strapping children to chair and placing mesh bags over their heads. You can read the full report


Fourteen months after the initial lawsuit was filed, a judge only granted the plaintiff's' claim related only to the adequacy of mental health care.

On July 23, the case was dismissed outright.

SVJC Executive Director Tim Showalter issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the court has dismissed the legal claims against the SVJC. The allegations in the lawsuit regarding mistreatment of youth in our care are not, and never were, legitimate or reliable. Our staff works every day to offer our residents a safe environment where they can receive important services like education, health care and counseling. We are eager to continue our work serving the people of the Shenandoah Valley and the youth entrusted to our care.”

Hannah Lieberman, a legal director with Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said her firm plans to appeal the decision:

"The immigrant children detained at Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center came to this country fleeing horrific violence and abuse in their home countries. Despite its knowledge of the profound trauma experienced by these children, SVJC failed to provide them with meaningful treatment for their serious mental health needs. We believe that the trial Court erred in dismissing the children’s claims of inadequate mental health treatment and look forward to appealing the decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals."