Conditions Not Improving at Troubled Mississippi Detention Center: Juvenile Justice Expert

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According to a recent report from The Jackson Free Press, conditions at a Hinds County, Miss. youth detention center have not improved, despite a federal settlement agreement from earlier this year that sought to address and improve the facility’s problems.

In August, Leonard Dixon, a Michigan-based juvenile-justice expert, filed a federal court complaint alleging that the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center has not complied with the provisions of a settlement that would provide juvenile detainees with mental-health evaluations, counseling sessions and improved rehabilitation options, among other services, The Jackson Free Press reported.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Disability Rights Mississippi filed the original class-action lawsuit that instigated the settlement agreement in 2011. The lawsuit further alleged that juveniles were often subject to verbal and physical abuse from staffers.

Corrie Cockrell, a staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office, told The Free Press that since the settlement agreement, Hinds County officials have not addressed a number of “basic issues” at the facility, alleging that the conditions at Henley-Young remain substandard.

“Five months have passed since we reached the settlement agreement, yet Hinds County has failed to comply with a single term of the agreement,” Cockrell told the Associated Press. “It is unconscionable that the county continues to subject some of our most vulnerable youth to these inhumane conditions.”

According to Dixon, the building itself is in subpar condition and requires immediate repair work. Furthermore, he cites inadequate staffing and leadership turnover as perhaps the root causes of the facility’s difficulties, asserting that management instability has created “chaos and a lack of direction” at the center.

“I found the facility staff not to be neglectful or abusive, but the lack of staffing and structure creates an environment that is neglectful and abusive,” Dixon wrote in his recent court filing.

“It is my opinion that Hinds County is committed to this process, but there is a need for consistent leadership at the facility.”

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