MDHS to ask lawmakers to close Columbia Training School

The Mississippi Department of Human Services will transfer the remaining 37 female students from Columbia Training School within the next 90 days and ask the Legislature to permanently close the facility.

MDHS Executive Director Don Taylor made the announcement today. Taylor says the students will be moved to Oakley Training School, where males only are now housed. He added there would be separate accommodations for female and male students.

Governor Haley Barbour says in a statement that he supports the action. Taylor says the relocation of the female students and the closure of Columbia will create a better situation for all the juveniles.

"I am very supportive of this action, which allows MDHS to utilize available resources in a more efficient manner while providing better and more centralized services to all of the juveniles under its care," Governor Haley Barbour said in a prepared statement.

According to an organization press release, "Relocation of students and consolidation of resources better supports the recommendations by the U.S. Department of Justice and allows for continued employment opportunities in support of youth adjudicated delinquent. Centralization of current resources will further support habilitation/rehabilitation for youth in custody."

The Following is a frequently asked question list provided by the MDHS:

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated February 14, 2008

What is Columbia Training School?

Columbia Training School was established in 1916 as a rehabilitative facility to help juvenile offenders placed in the custody of the state.  Columbia currently houses 37 female juveniles.  There are 109 staff members currently working at Columbia.  The facility occupies 2,391.98 acres with 51 buildings.

Why are we closing Columbia?

Governor Barbour and MDHS recognize the need to provide the best possible care and supervision of the juveniles placed in the state's custody.  Due to issues ranging from adequate staffing to quality of care, and the desire to most efficiently spend taxpayer dollars, Governor Barbour and MDHS recommend the closure of Columbia Training School.

What happens to the juveniles currently housed at Columbia?

The 37 females at Columbia will be transferred to the Oakley Training School as soon as the facilities at Oakley are made ready.  MDHS anticipates this will be done within 90 days. MDHS will modify the facilities at Oakley to ensure gender separation.

What happens to the staff?

Many of the staff members will be offered the opportunity to continue working within MDHS.  There likely will be a recommendation to the State Personnel Board for a reduction in force (RIF) since the consolidation of the Columbia and Oakley facilities will eliminate the need for duplicative services.

How much money will the state save?

There will be a savings to the state.  MDHS will need to spend some money to modify the facilities at Oakley.  In addition, Oakley will need additional staff to accommodate the new student and the gender separation policy.

In Fiscal Year 2007, Columbia Training School had a budget of $5,804,165, with an average daily cost per student of $336.55.  The average population in FY 07 was 47.  The current population is 37.

Assuming Oakley houses 37 female juveniles, the annual cost savings to the State will be approximately $2.7 million.

What happens to the land and other assets associated with the training school site?

Governor Barbour and MDHS are committed to working with local officials and the State Legislature to develop the best course of action for this valuable property.

Will closing Columbia require action by the Legislature?


How will this affect the settlement with the Department of Justice?

The consent decree allows for the closing of the Columbia Training School.

Is the Columbia Training School investigation complete and will the findings be made public?

Yes, but inasmuch as there is pending litigations, it will not be made public at this time.

What is an Adolescent Offender Program (AOP)?

The AOP, which is a program that began in the mid '90s, is a community-based partnership between DYS and local agencies and is the most significant recent advance in the state's juvenile justice system. The AOP provides intense, regular supervision combined with clinical counseling, daily interaction and support from the courts, educators, law enforcement, mental health and DYS staff. Its success can be attributed to the combined effort by local and state entities working together to help at-risk youth avoid incarceration.

How many male students are currently housed at Oakley Training School?


How will the female students be segregated from the current male population?

By separate facilities, including housing, meals, academics and recreation.