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Disability Rights Mississippi v. Forrest County, Miss.

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The Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi was the site of numerous abuse allegations. Security camera footage from the facility showed youths being slammed into walls and beaten by staffers. One youth in the video footage was hogtied by a guard. In addition to the abuse documented in the video, the juvenile detention center regularly confined children in filthy, crowded cells for 23 hours a day.

When Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS) attempted to provide the youths with services to protect them from further abuse, Forrest County officials blocked access to the youths at the Hattiesburg facility. The Southern Poverty Law Center and DRMS sued the county to force it to comply with federal law and allow DRMS access to the incarcerated children. The county allowed DRMS access to the facility, settling the lawsuit.

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 violations.

After gaining access, the SPLC and DRMS filed a lawsuit in April 2011. That lawsuit – M.T., et al. v. Forrest County, Mississippi – challenged the conditions found at the detention center. A settlement agreement was reached in October 2011. It required the county to improve conditions at the detention center and end the abusive treatment of children.

County officials also agreed to improve staffing and alleviate overcrowded conditions; shorten the time that children are confined to their cells each day; and improve educational and rehabilitative programs.