“Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified,” they wrote.
…”Each passing day of continued detention of children — and no acknowledgment of the risk that we have reported — alarms me even more,” Allen told CNN in a recent interview.
…Allen and McPherson say they documented their concerns numerous times in reports filed with the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, and felt like the people in power were listening. But they say two things prompted them to speak more publicly about the matter after Trump took office: the spike in family separations at the border and moves to increase family detention rather than scale it back.
- Significant weight loss in children that went largely unnoticed by the facility medical staff, including a 16-month-old baby who lost nearly a third of his body weight over 10 days during a diarrheal disease but was never given IV fluids or sent to an emergency room.
- A 27-day-old baby who had a seizure from bleeding inside his skull that was missed by the facility on arrival.
- Numerous children who suffered severe finger injuries while confined in a facility that was designed as a medium-security prison for adults.
“This is not a story about people in these facilities not caring about children. … It is about good people trying to keep children safe in an environment that’s very dangerous to them by design, if not intent. And they’ve been asked to execute deeply flawed and I would even say mean-spirited policies, and to do so in such a way that minimizes harms to children,” Allen says. “It’s an impossible task.”
“Even if you could pour money and resources into properly staffing these facilities and giving them programming,” Allen says, “the simple act of detaining and indefinite detention … is irreparably harmful to children.”
…And while they’ve been lauded by colleagues and friends, there are two things McPherson and Allen say haven’t happened since they wrote their first letter to Congress.
The doctors haven’t been asked to inspect any family detention facilities again.
And the government’s family detention policies haven’t changed.
…In budget requests, officials have repeatedly outlined plans to increase family detention capacity. The White House’s proposed 2020 budget includes a plan to expand capacity to 10,000 family detention beds, a request that would quadruple the number of beds currently funded.
…”The practice of detaining children and families is no longer an issue of policy dispute,” they wrote in their March letter to Congress. “It is a willful policy that knowingly inflicts serious harm to children, including risk of death.”
The doctors say the problems detailed in their letters illustrate how difficult it is to provide care to vulnerable children in relatively small detention facilities.
“Now you take that, and you try to rapidly upscale it. This is going to be a disaster,” Allen says.
…Because of policy decisions, Allen says, children and families are placed in confinement first, with appropriate triage and medical care occurring later.
“That’s exactly the wrong way to do it,” he says. “As doctors, we say, triage them, make sure they’re safe, make sure they’re healthy, and then put them through the process of asylum.”
… “Our goal is to protect children. But if we fail them, we sure as hell want to leave a written record for history that documents who is notified of an impending harm to children — and who did nothing about it.”
Knox County Sheriff’s Det. Grayson Fritts said during a sermon last weekend that gay people are “freaks” and “reprobates” who are “worthy of death” and should be tried and executed by the government.
…”When any potential witness in a criminal proceeding expresses an opinion of hatred and/or bias towards a class of citizens, I am ethically bound to explore that witness’ credibility. Accordingly, I am reviewing all pending cases involving Mr. Fritts to scrutinize them for any potential bias.”