RICHMOND, Va. — A Department of Juvenile Justice investigation into abuse allegations at Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (SVJC) has concluded that there are no life, health or safety violations at the facility.
The investigation into SVJC, an independent juvenile immigration facility, was requested by Governor Northam after allegations of abuse were described in a lawsuit regarding the safety of residents being housed at the center. The class action lawsuit, filed in fall 2017 by three migrant children being held at the facility, alleged abuses by the facility guards – including being beating residents restrained in handcuffs and sending children to solitary confinement for long hours.
After interviewing residents of the facility and reviewing their records, child protective services did not find evidence to support allegations of abuse or neglect. Despite that the DJJ found the facility in compliance with regulations and standards, the report makes several recommendations as to how the facility could improve programming for the youth.
The recommendations include providing staff with training for trauma informed care and positive youth development as well as increasing staff’s understanding of and sensitivity towards the cultural backgrounds of the residents, increasing the number of bilingual staff, and providing culturally relevant programming for the youth.
The report further detailed the need for SVJC to re-train staff on the use of physical and mechanical restraints, provide training for de-escalation techniques, and explore design and furniture modifications to create a space more conducive towards working with residents who have experienced trauma.