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Lawsuits & Litigation

Staff at Shiloh Treatment Center Uses ‘Soviet’ Psychiatry on Immigrant Kids

— June 21, 2018

A disturbing lawsuit filed accuses administrators at Shiloh Treatment Center, some ways south of Houston, of subduing immigrant children with psychiatric drugs.

The allegations are especially disconcerting in light of President Donald Trump’s recent comments on illegal immigration and the rights of detained children. While the commander-in-chief signed an executive order Wednesday designed to reduce family separations at the border, the government is expected to petition for a policy revision that would enable contractors to keep kids locked up for more than 20 days.

At Shiloh, conditions are beyond terrible.

Reveal, writing without reservations, reports:

“President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy is creating a zombie army of children forcibly injected with medications that make them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated, according to legal filings that show immigrant children un U.S. custody subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs.”

Image via Michelle Tribe/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-3.0)

Talk of a “zombie army” may push the boundaries of reasonable rhetoric—but the complaints stacked up against Shiloh challenge common notions of human decency.

The lawsuit describes how children at the facility are regularly plied with drugs. Prescriptions intended to treat depression or control psychosis are instead used to subdue and control minors, many of whom say they were told they were taking vitamins. Others claim staff said they wouldn’t be allowed to see their parents again unless they agreed to the regimen.

Most of the drugs mentioned in the suit, writes Gizmodo, are antipsychotics–olanzapine and quetiapine, used to combat schizophrenia and mood disorders. And then there are names like prazosin, too, for regulating high blood pressure, and tranquilizers typically meant for controlling seizures or calming panic attacks.

While all of the drugs listed in the lawsuit are moderately effective in adults, there’s little evidence to show they’re safe for children. And some evidence, claims Gizmodo, suggests that their negative side-effects are more likely to occur with developing bodies and brains.

“You don’t need to administer these kinds of drugs unless someone is plucking out their eyeballs or some such,” said forensic psychiatrist Mark J. Mills, who examined the medical records of the children, made available through court filings. “The facility should not use these drugs to control behavior. That’s not what antipsychotics should be used for.

“That’s like the old Soviet Union used to do,” said Mills.

Parents and children told attorneys that the medications made them unable to function—one mother says her child couldn’t walk, falling over and over again until she wound up in a wheelchair. Other young immigrants became terrified of strangers or spent their days in a stupor.

Shiloh, notes Reveal, is one of 71 companies currently receiving funds from the federal government to house and supervise immigrant children who arrived to the United States without adult caretakers.

Mills says the medications probably aren’t helping kids make the best of detention.

Asked what consequences psychiatric drugs are likely to have on teenagers, Mills said they’d “feel like shit.”

“They feel like they have given up their own control,” he said. “The long-term complications are weight gain and developing adult onset diabetes. These dugs are not benign.”


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