‘Greatest Nation on Earth,’ US has world’s highest rate of children in detention: UN study

More than 100,000 children are being held in migration-related detention in the US, a new UN study finds.

Child migrants are seen outside the US Border Patrol McAllen Station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas in May [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]
Child migrants are seen outside the US Border Patrol McAllen Station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas in May [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]

The United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the author of a United Nations study said on Monday.

Worldwide more than seven million people under age 18 are held in jails and police custody, including 330,000 in immigration detention centres, independent expert Manfred Nowak said.

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Children should only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible, according to the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers – we still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the (US),” Nowak told a news briefing.

“Of course separating children, as was done by the Trump administration, from their parents and even small children at the Mexican-US border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children,” he added.

There was no immediate reaction from US authorities. Novak said US officials had not replied to his questionnaire sent to all countries.

‘Inhuman treatement’

Novak said the US had ratified major international treaties such as those guaranteeing civil and political rights and banning torture, but was the only country not to have ratified the pact on the rights of children.

“The way they were separating infants from families only in order to deter irregular migration from Central America to the United States to me constitutes inhuman treatment, and that is absolutely prohibited by the two treaties,” said Nowak, a professor of international law at the University of Vienna.

Child immigration - US
Protesters hold signs outside of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children while members of Congress tour the facility [File: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

The US detains an average of 60 out of every 100,000 children in its justice system or immigration-related custody, Nowak said, the world’s highest rate, followed by countries such as Bolivia, Botswana and Sri Lanka.

Mexico, where many Central American migrants have been turned back at the US border, also has high numbers, with 18,000 children in immigration-related detention and 7,000 in prisons, he said.

The US rate compared with an average of five per 100,000 in Western Europe and 14-15 per 100,000 in Canada, he said.

At least 29,000 children, mainly linked to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters, are held in northern Syria and in Iraq – with French citizens among the biggest group of foreigners, Nowak added.

Even if some of these children had been child soldiers, he said, they should be mainly treated as victims, not perpetrators, so that they could be rehabilitated and reintegrated in society.

Trump’s immigration policy

Since coming to office, US President Donald Trump has implemented a crackdown on immigration. As part of his “zero-tolerance” policy at the border, his government implemented a practice of separating families. Following public outrage, Trump formally ended the practice in June 2018, but immigration advocates say family separation continues in other ways.

Last week, an analysis of US government data by The Associated Press and PBS’s Fronline showed 69,550 migrant children were held in US government custody over the past year.

AP and Frontline also found that children held in government custody spent more time in shelters and away from their families than in previous years.

ICE Family Separation protest file photo
US President Donald Trump has escalated a crackdown on immigration since coming to office [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]

In September, a judge blocked new Trump administration rules that would have enabled the government to keep migrant children in detention facilities with their parents indefinitely.

The judge said the rules conflict with a 1997 settlement agreement that requires the government to release immigrant children detained along the border as quickly as possible to relatives in the US and says they can only be held in facilities licensed by a state.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly said that detention is not suitable for children, who may suffer numerous negative physical and emotional symptoms.

The Trump administration has faced harsh criticism of its temporary border patrol stations, where lawyers and internal government watch-dogs reported hundreds of children and families were held in squalid conditions.

Jeffrey Epstein: Two guards suspended and warden removed over death

Metropolitan Correctional CenterThe Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein died

Two prison guards have been suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned at the New York City jail where Jeffrey Epstein died of suspected suicide.

It comes after the FBI opened an investigation into the death of Epstein, who was facing prosecution for sex trafficking when he was found dead.

The suspension, ordered by Attorney General William Barr, came a day after he criticised the jail’s “failure”.

The circumstance surrounding the financier’s death has raised questions.

It remains unclear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch after an attempted suicide last month. He also was supposed to have been checked in on by a guard every 30 minutes.

Before his downfall, Epstein had previously counted many prominent rich and powerful people, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as friends.

What did the Department of Justice say?

In a statement, Mr Barr “directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily assign” warden Lamine N’Diaye to a regional office, pending a full investigation.

He will be replaced by James Petrucci, the warden of the federal prison in Otisville, New York.

Courtroom sketch of Jeffrey EpsteinImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionEpstein faced up to 45 years in jail if convicted

Two other staff members who were assigned to Epsteins’ unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) have also been placed on leave.

“Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, a union official for workers at the jail told the Washington Post that one of the guards on Epstein’s unit on Saturday – when he died – was not a regular correctional officer, but rather another form of prison employee who was directed to operate as a guard due to staffing shortages.

Both guards working on his unit were working overtime shifts, but it’s unclear whether they were doing so voluntarily.

The union representing federal prison guards, the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, said in a statement after Epstein’s death that many guards are forced to work overtime.

In a statement provided to BBC News, the organisation’s president Eric Young said prison employees who are not correctional officers – such as teachers, nurses, clerical workers – are often made to guard inmates due to a process known as “augmentation”.

What has Trump said?

President Donald Trump told reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday: “I want a full investigation, and that’s what I absolutely am demanding.

“That’s what our attorney general, our great attorney general, is doing. He’s doing a full investigation.”

He also defended his decision to retweet conspiracy theory that suggested that the Clinton family had Epstein killed.

“He’s a very highly respected conservative pundit,” Mr Trump said of comedian Terrence K Williams, who wrote the original post.

“He’s a big Trump fan. And that was a retweet. That wasn’t from me… So I think I was fine.”

Media caption‘Any co-conspirators should not rest easy’

The order comes one day after Mr Barr said he was “frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”

He added: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”

[submedia] New ‘A is for Anarchy’ Vid – What is Violence?

What is Violence?

After more than a year-long hiatus, we’re back with new installation of our A is for Anarchy series.  This time, we explore the question of violence – a concept that is often associated with anarchists… for better or worse.  We look at the ways that violence is hidden and encoded into the very structures of society, and the role that defensive violence can play in the struggle for liberation.

You can watch the video here:
https://sub.media/video/what-is-violence/

Looking to translate the video?  You can find the video on Amara or get in touch with us at trouble@sub.media.

Fundraiser Total: 43.5% of $2000 per monthAlso just a quick update on the fundraising front, where after nearly a month into our push, we’re slowly but surely inching towards the half-way mark.  Huge thanks to everyone who’s donated, or shared the link to our fundraising video!  If you haven’t kicked in yet, but have some cash to spare, you can make a one-time donation or sign up to be a monthly sustainer at sub.media/donate.

You can also help out our fundraising by purchasing some fresh subMedia gear at sub.media/gear.

That’s all for now

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Florida teachers can arm themselves under new gun bill!

Critics question if the solution to gun violence is the presence of more guns, warn of the danger of teachers misfiring.
Firearms instructor Mike Magowan uses a rubber training pistol to demonstrate a shooting stance ,during a teachers-only firearms training class offered for free at the Veritas Training Academy in Sarasota, Florida  [File: Brian Blanco/Reuters]
Firearms instructor Mike Magowan uses a rubber training pistol to demonstrate a shooting stance ,during a teachers-only firearms training class offered for free at the Veritas Training Academy in Sarasota, Florida

Florida’s legislature on Wednesday passed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom, expanding a programme launched after the deadly high school shooting in Parkland with the aim of preventing another such massacre.

Florida’s House of Representatives voted 65 to 47 to pass the bill after hours of debate over two days in which the Republican majority thwarted Democratic efforts to amend, stall or kill the measure. Florida’s Senate approved it 22 to 17 last week.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law, enabling school districts wishing to take part in the voluntary Guardian programme to arm those teachers who pass a 144-hour training course.

On February 14, 2018, a former student armed with a semiautomatic rifle opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.

President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association have argued an armed teacher could provide the best defence against a shooter bent on mass murder.

Gun control

Opponents questioned whether the solution to gun violence should be the presence of even more guns and warned of the danger of a teacher misfiring during a crisis or police mistaking an armed teacher for the assailant.

More than 1,200 children in US killed by guns in the last year

Its passage marks a victory for gun-rights advocates, who were on the defensive a year ago when Parkland students inspired nationwide protests in favour of gun control.

After the Parkland shooting, Florida politicians rushed through legislation that required schools to place at least one armed staff member or law-enforcement officer at each campus.

The law also imposed a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and raised the age limit for buying rifles from 18 to 21.

Although last year’s law allowed some school personnel to carry weapons, guns were still banned from the classroom.

Backers of arming classroom teachers revived the issue this year, arguing that school shootings often erupt too quickly for law enforcement to respond.

Florida remembers Parkland high school shooting victims

In anticipation of passage, school employees in 40 of Florida’s 67 counties already enrolled in or planned to take the 144-hour course, a spokesman for the Speaker of the House said. Some counties have resolved not to participate in the Guardian programme.

Florida’s gun-control advocates had made stopping the proposal a top priority, among them Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, which is funded by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

 

The Aftermath: Mass Shootings in the US

Right-Wing Vigilantes Hold Migrants Hostage on U.S. Border. Did Border Patrol Give Tacit Approval?

APRIL 23, 2019
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The FBI has arrested the head of an armed vigilante group that has repeatedly filmed itself detaining migrant border crossers at gunpoint. Sixty-nine-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins is the leader of the far-right, pro-Trump group calling itself United Constitutional Patriots, which the American Civil Liberties Union described as an “armed fascist militia organization.” His arrest came just days after the ACLU accused the vigilantes of illegally detaining 300 migrants, including young children, near Sunland Park, New Mexico, last week. We speak to Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico.

Turpin captivity case: Children forgive parents for torture

Turpin child reads statement during sentencing

A California couple’s children have forgiven them for years of torture and starvation as the parents were sentenced to life in prison.

David and Louise Turpin’s children told a court they still loved their mother and father despite all the abuse.

The couple were arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter escaped the filthy home in Perris.

The Turpins pleaded guilty to the abuse of all but one of their 13 children for at least nine years.

Photo of the Turpin familyThe couple’s Facebook page contained numerous family photos

They are expected to serve the rest of their lives behind bars, unless granted parole in 25 years.

What did the children say?

The couple wept as they heard victim-impact statements from four of their children at Friday’s hearing.

“I love both of my parents so much,” said one child in words read by her brother.

“Although it may not have been the best way of raising us, I am glad that they did because it made me the person I am today.”

David TurpinDavid Turpin broke down as he learned his fate

Another sibling recounted being haunted by their ordeal.

“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up,” said his statement.

“Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that had happened such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten.

“That is the past and this is now.

“I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things they did to us.”

But not all the children were so conciliatory.

One daughter, visibly shaking, said: “My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back.

Louise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday's sentencingLouise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday’s sentencing

“I’m a fighter, I’m strong and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”

She added: “I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realised what was happening.”

What did the parents say?

David and Louise Turpin also cried as they apologised for the treatment of their children.

The 57-year-old father’s lawyer read a prepared statement on his behalf, saying: “My home schooling and discipline had good intentions.

“I never intended for any harm to come to my children.

“I love my children and I believe my children love me.”

He was an engineer for major US defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

David Turpin and Louise TurpinDavid and Louise Turpin have agreed to lengthy prison terms after pleading guilty to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment

Speaking directly to court, housewife Louise Turpin, 50, said she was “truly sorry” for what she had done.

“I love my children so much,” she said. “I really look forward to the day I can see them, hug them and tell them I’m sorry.”

What did the judge say?

The couple sat stony-faced as the judge rebuked them for their “selfish, cruel and inhuman treatment”.

Judge Bernard Schwartz said: “You have severed the ability to interact and raise your children that you have created and brought into this world.

The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las VegasThe Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, where the parents renewed their vows

“The only reason that your punishment is less than the maximum time in my opinion is because you accepted responsibility at an early stage in the proceeding.

“And you spared your children having to relive the humiliation and the harm they endured in that house of horrors.”

What did the children endure?

The tidy exterior of the middle-class family home 70 miles (112km) south of Los Angeles offered a veneer of respectability that masked the squalor and stench of human waste found by authorities within.

The children, between the ages of two to 29 at the time of the police raid, were severely malnourished.

A 22-year-old son was discovered chained to a bed. His two sisters had just been released from shackles.

The victims were forbidden to shower more than once a year, were unable to use the toilet and none of them had ever seen a dentist.

The Turpin family in a Facebook picture dated 2011The Turpins on a family trip to Disneyland – it was apparently a favourite destinationPresentational white space

Some of the adult siblings’ growth had been so severely stunted by starvation that authorities at first mistook them for children.

Newly released audio of their daughter’s call to 911, obtained by ABC, provides a hint of the conditions in which the children lived.

“Two of my sisters and one of my brothers… they’re chained up to their bed”, the 17-year-old girl, who did not know her own address, told the emergency operator.

“Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because how dirty the house is.”

The girl was also unaware of the year or month, or meaning of the word “medication”.

The children – whose names all begin with the letter J – were kept indoors, but were allowed out for Halloween, or on family trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.

About 20 people from across the country, including nurses and psychologists, have offered to care for the seven adult siblings and six children.