The Southern Poverty Law Center and Disability Rights Mississippi filed a lawsuit against Forrest County, Miss., to force the county to comply with federal law and provide the children held at the county’s juvenile detention center with access to lawyers and civil rights advocates following reports of abusive conditions at the facility.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS) today filed a lawsuit against Forrest County, Miss., to force the county to comply with federal law and provide the children held at the county’s juvenile detention center with access to lawyers and civil rights advocates following reports of abusive conditions at the facility.
Video footage from the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center shows a youth hogtied and other abuses, including a youth slammed against a wall by a guard. The video was recently released despite the county’s effort to prevent it from being aired. When advocates for the SPLC and DRMS sought access to the detention center in order to provide detained youth with federally mandated protection and advocacy services, county officials barred their access to the children.
“This shocking footage exposes the horrific abuse children at this facility have already suffered and demonstrates the need for increased monitoring and accountability in the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center. Federal law requires no less,” said Jody Owens, lead attorney on the case for the SPLC. “It is unfortunate that Forrest County would rather spend taxpayer money to mount a legal fight instead of following clearly established federal law, which requires the county to allow protection and advocacy services.”
In addition to the abuse documented in the video, the juvenile detention center has regularly confined children in filthy, crowded cells for 23 hours a day, according to the lawsuit.
DRMS and the SPLC work throughout the state to monitor the conditions at juvenile detention centers where youth are held and advocate on behalf of these children when their rights are violated. DRMS is a nonprofit agency with a federal mandate to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Under this mandate, they have a right to enter the facility, interview children, assess the conditions and work with the county to address these violations.
Numerous attempts have been made to explain to county officials the legal basis for the DRMS request, but the county has repeatedly rejected or ignored the requests.