D.W., et al. v. Harrison County, Miss.
Children held at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi endured squalid conditions and horrific physical and emotional abuse that violated their civil rights.
Children were forced to endure shackling, physical assaults by staff, confinement to vermin-infested cells and overcrowded, unsanitary conditions that resulted in widespread contraction of scabies and staph infections. The detention center also failed to provide children with adequate medical and mental health care during their confinement. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of all children confined at the facility and those who will be confined there in the future.
The plaintiff, a 17-year-old boy named in the suit as D.W., was forced to sleep on a concrete floor with a thin mat that smelled of urine. Despite attempting suicide in his cell, he did not receive mental health treatment or counseling. He was also harassed and assaulted by guards.
The suit also asserted an advocacy group was unlawfully denied its right to access the facility and monitor conditions. The detention center has been operated by a private corporation, the Mississippi Security Police, at an annual cost to the county of $1.6 million. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement agreement to protect children and teens detained at the center from abuse and neglect.