JACKSON, Miss. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) asked a federal judge today to hold Hinds County officials in contempt of court and extend a settlement agreement designed to end abusive conditions at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center – noting that after two years, the facility has failed to substantially comply with even one of the agreement's 71 provisions.
The request was made in a contempt motion filed against Hinds County officials in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. A memo in support of the motion states that "the County's woeful non-compliance has resulted in numerous children being subjected to unconstitutional conditions on a daily basis" and "provides absolutely no assurance that it will remedy the rampant constitutional violations" without continued court oversight.
"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 motion asks the court to extend the settlement agreement until the facility is in substantial compliance with all of its provisions. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 to end the abuse at the facility and protect the more than 300 children who pass through Henley-Young each year.
Abusive incidents detailed in the lawsuit include a staff member encouraging one young man to kill himself so that there would be "one less person officers have to worry about."
One staff member threatened to harm a child's family because the child took too long to return to his cell after his shower. The children also were forced to stay in small cells for 20 to 23 hours every day with little human contact, exercise or access to education and rehabilitation programs.
The settlement agreement requires the facility to provide youth 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 youth from abuse and increase staffing levels.