COWLITZ COUNTY REFUSES TO END COUNTRY’S ONLY CONTRACT OF ITSKIND WITH ICE DESPITE REPORTS OF HARM TO CHILDREN
January 18, 2021
COWLITZ COUNTY REFUSES TO END COUNTRY’S ONLY CONTRACT OF ITS
KIND WITH ICE DESPITE REPORTS OF HARM TO CHILDREN
Longview, WA — The Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center is the last county youth
detention facility in the nation to hold a contract with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).
A 2020 report by Harvard-trained child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Amy J. Cohen, MD
details the myriad harms perpetrated against immigrant children locked within the facility.
Despite community members’ persistent advocacy efforts, Cowlitz County refuses to terminate
Dr. Cohen reports immigrant children at the Cowlitz facility are locked in their solitary cells for 16
hours per day, at minimum, with few breaks. There is no therapy and no psychiatric services
despite the facility placing traumatized children on psychotropic medication. The children are not
permitted outdoors unless an appointment has been made, which means that they can go for
months with no exposure to sunshine or fresh air.
“While detained U.S. citizen youth generally do not stay more than a week, migrant youth are
held for much longer,” Dr. Cohen wrote in her report. “The absence of access to stimulation
adversely and likely irreversibly affects brain development during a particularly active
Conditions have worsened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of Dr. Cohen’s
report last summer, mask-wearing and physical distancing policies were not strictly enforced,
the children spent even more time isolated in their cells than before, and there were no longer
teachers in the classrooms to support the children in their studies. While most of the local U.S.
citizen youth were released in March 2020 to protect them against the risk of COVID-19
infection, the facility never even considered releasing the immigrant children.
Dr. Cohen has over thirty years of experience treating vulnerable children and assessing trauma
caused by child incarceration and has testified before the U.S. Senate and members of the U.S.
House of Representatives. She has published and spoken as a recognized expert on the
Pastor of Longview United Methodist Church Allison Mattocks stated, “As a community member
and faith leader in Cowlitz County, I am appalled that our county continues this contract and
locks children in cages. This contract does not reflect our community’s values, and I implore the
county to end the contract with ICE immediately.”
Since October 13, 2020, Cowlitz County residents have frequently commented at the Board of
Commissioners’ Tuesday morning meetings at 9 a.m., calling on them to end the county’s
contract with ICE. More than 30 individuals have urged the commissioners to end this contract
at these meetings, including teachers, ordained clergy, lawyers, medical professionals, and
social workers. The commissioners have denied multiple requests that this matter be added to
an agenda for a future commissioner meeting.
Community members have also organized several vigils in front of the detention center, in front
of the commissioners’ offices, and at Longview Civic Circle, including a vigil on Christmas Eve
2020. Despite these and other efforts, Cowlitz County has refused to terminate their contract
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