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Presidential Candidates: Sign Pledge to End Institutionalized Child Abuse in America

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American children marched to death, starved, put into stress positions and solitary confinement.  Forced to eat their own vomit and trade sexual favors for food. Made to endure simulated executions and being denied life-saving medical care.

When we first encountered these and so many additional horror stories told by other survivors of institutionalized child abuse, they sounded too horrible to be true in modern America. We were stunned to find it all documented by Congressional hearings, Government Accountability Office reports, and a PBS documentary aptly entitled, Who’s Watching the Kids?

How could this be happening, and how could it all be happening so quietly? Retired Congressman George Miller referred to these human rights violations as “an open secret” and worked tirelessly for decades to end this torture of America’s youth. He held hearings, sponsored legislation year after year, and implored the Justice Department to investigate. Though eye opening, the hearings remain obscure. The legislation never passed and the Justice Department declined Miller’s urgent request for action to protect these kids and hold the guilty accountable for past abuses.

Unfortunately in these cases, even when children died, law enforcement agencies rarely take meaningful action. For example, across the eight preventable deaths of institutionalized children examined in one of the GAO’s reports, there were only two criminal prosecutions, leading to a total of one month of jail time.

Despite clear moral duty, as well as our nation’s obligation under the Convention Against Torture, sadly such insufficient action is par for this very disheartening course.

We the undersigned demand a pledge from all presidential candidates to both work with legislators and to direct law enforcement action to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and frequently marginalized youth so that no child has to endure such horrible abuse.

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