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'The Snake Pit,' 1948

A federal judge in California has ruled the government must release most kids being held in a notorious Texas facility where they were given psychiatric medications without parental consent, and that federal baby jailers must get proper consent or a court order to administer such meds in the future. It's a big win for immigrant advocates who contended the government-contracted facilities misused psychiatric drugs as "chemical straight jackets" to force kids into compliance. We agree, that's terrible. For one thing, it's "straitjacket."

The lawsuit involved yet another follow-up to the 1997 Flores settlement, which limited how long the government can detain minors in immigration cases, and was overseen by US District Judge Dolly Gee. The defendants were the Department of Justice and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency responsible for caring for migrant kids. ORR had been housing kids at Shiloh Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, where kids were sent for a lot of reasons Gee found violated the terms of Flores, particularly the terms that required minors be housed in the "least restrictive setting" possible unless they were determined to be a danger to themselves or others, as the song goes.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, relying on court documents that cited the testimony of kids and parents, discovered in June that kids at Shiloh were routinely medicated, and often had no idea why -- or for that matter, why they'd been sent to Shiloh in the first place. Some had extreme side effects, like being so dizzy they had trouble walking or even sitting up in a chair.


Others were just flat out lied to:

Another child recounted being made to take pills in the morning, at noon and night. The child said "the staff told me that some of the pills are vitamins because they think I need to gain weight. The vitamins changed about two times, and each time I feel different.

Judge Gee's ruling told the government to knock it the hell off, and to relocate the kids kept at Shiloh to other facilities unless a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determines that a child "poses a risk of harm to self or others," plus the whole consent thing.

In addition, Gee said the government had been placing kids in secured facilities without sufficient reason, like locking them up for being "associated" with a gang in their homelands. ICE has applied that term to kids simply for being aware another kid was in a gang, even if it was merely an acquaintance.No more of that, said Gee: Secure facilities can be used when a kid "is chargeable" with a crime, but not merely if the kid "may be chargeable." It seems like a fine distinction, but it will prevent kids who've done nothing from being locked away.

Gee also required the government to let minors know in writing why they've been transferred to a secure facility, and that the notice be in a language the kid understands. Testimony from kids showed some had been locked up and drugged at Shiloh for months on end, and even the defendants acknowledged their standard transfer form "exists only in English."

Oh, yes, and even in secure facilities, kids still turn out to have some rights, even though they're here illegally. Gee cited the case of at least one boy who was deprived of water as a "security measure" and said GTFO with that nonsense. Kids in such facilities nevertheless still have the right to call relatives or attorneys, with privacy.

Gee is really not a happy judge in her ruling, particularly in her treatment of the government's claim that it didn't need parental consent to drug kids, because the meds were only given in "emergency" conditions. Gee cited one child who'd testified about being given "seven pills every day" and another who said "I take pills every morning and every night," and scoffed,

ORR could not have possibly administered psychiatric medication to those Class Members on an "emergency basis" every day.

Don't tell us a legal document can't scoff.

The Center for Investigative Reporting's initial report and its follow-up on the decision are excellent, if harrowing, work, and yes you should go read them. Let's also hear it for pissed off federal judges who brook no shenanigans from the New Cruelty -- they may be our best protection from this madness. Now, to retake the Senate and not confirm a single more judge from the Federalist Society's nightmare team...

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[Reveal / Judge Gee's decision / WaPo / Reveal]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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