02/27/2014

SPLC seeks contempt order after Mississippi juvenile detention facility fails to address abuses that led to lawsuit

Children at a juvenile detention facility in Mississippi continue to face abuse and neglect despite a court agreement requiring broad reforms, prompting the SPLC today to ask a federal judge to hold officials in Hinds County in contempt.

Two years after the settlement agreement with the SPLC, the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center in Jackson has failed to substantially comply with even one of the agreement’s 71 provisions, the SPLC said, citing a court monitor’s report.

The contempt motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, also asks the court to extend the 2012 agreement until the Hinds County facility substantially complies with all of its provisions.

More than 300 children pass through the facility each year; many are detained prior to adjudication of their cases. A memo in support of the motion says they are still “being subjected to unconstitutional conditions on a daily basis.”

“The motion for contempt was filed today after numerous attempts to resolve the issues with county officials,” said Corrie Cockrell, SPLC staff attorney. “It is clear that there remains a great deal of work to comply with the agreement and protect the children at Henley-Young.”

The abuse detailed in the 2011 lawsuit includes forcing children to stay in small cells for 20 to 23 hours every day with little human contact, exercise or access to education and rehabilitation programs; verbally abusing and threatening physical harm to children and their families; and withholding medication from children with serious mental health problems.

The settlement agreement requires the facility to provide children with adequate medical and mental health care in a timely manner and to provide daily educational, rehabilitative and recreational programming. It includes provisions to protect them from abuse and to increase staffing levels.