Under the Trump administration, hundreds of migrant children have allegedly languished in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for months. But detention, child experts warn, can put kids at great risk, including for a well-known concern in juvenile detention: Self-harm.
A spate of recent lawsuits and case files have surfaced troubling evidence of young migrants self-harming in federal custody, particularly in the secure facilities that house kids the government considers a serious danger to themselves or others. A complaint filed against Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia in July claims kids tried to drink shampoo; cut their arms and wrists with plastic or glass and at least in one instance a kid hit his head against the wall until he started to bleed. At Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility in California, five of 18 youth self-harmed at least once between December 2016 and March 2017, according to case summaries.
One 17-year-old who came to the United States when he was around 15 has been held in various facilities for over a year and a half. He said that he began to hurt himself soon after he arrived at Shenandoah, banging his head against the wall and cutting his wrists with glass and whatever else he could find.
“I had never cut myself before I came to the United States,” he said.