Update: Federal Civil Rights suit aimed at Alabama Sheriff who ran Scared Straight-like Program

The Anniston Star is reporting that a federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against a Calhoun County, Ala., Sheriff who is accused of running a program that put juveniles into close contact with hardened criminals in a manner that is similar to the “scared straight” programs.

The Star quotes experts as saying the way Sheriff Larry Amerson operated the program runs contrary to federal and state law. The suit was brought by the father of a juvenile identified as J.B. It alleges that at one point during a recent visit by J.B., a deputy and an inmate verbally and physically abused him, pushing him and hurling racial slurs at him. The suit says that Amerson later came to speak to the boy. The Star obtained a copy of a video of part of that conversation, showing Amerson  “grabbing and holding down a boy dressed in an orange-striped inmate jumpsuit. The boy, whom the suit identifies as J.B., is shackled and has his hands cuffed behind his back during the incident,” wrote The Star’s Cameron Steele.

UPDATE: Juvenile Justice Experts Say Sheriff Using Illegal Scared Straight Program

The Anniston Star has this followup on the Alabama sheriff under investigation by the FBI after allegedly using manual force on a juvenile. A Calhoun County, Al., Sheriff’s Office program for youthful offenders and suspended-from-school teenagers to work in the county jail sounds remarkably similar to programs banned by federal and state law, officials say. Those programs, commonly called “scared straight” or “shock incarceration” programs, became popular in the 1970s as a way to scare or shock youthful offenders or juveniles prone to misbehaving into more appropriate behavior, a policy expert at the Washington D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice said. But a range of state and national juvenile-justice officials said that years of research have proven the scared straight concept to be in error; those same officials say that such programs are violations of the federal and Alabama laws, which prohibit youthful offenders from being detained or confined in adult corrections facilities. And all of those officials say the description of a Calhoun County program jointly run by the Sheriff’s Office and Family Links, Inc., a children’s behavior task force for the county, falls under the umbrella of those legally questionable programs.

Read more:Anniston Star – Legality of jail program questioned

Read more of JJIE’s Scared Straight coverage here and here.

FBI Probing Possible Civil Rights Violation of Teen

The FBI is probing potential civil rights violations related to a video that shows Calhoun County, Ala., Sheriff Larry Amerson using manual force against a juvenile male. The FBI has launched a preliminary investigation to “gather facts” about whether Amerson’s actions, which were recorded by a surveillance camera, were a violation of the boy’s civil rights, an FBI spokesman told The Star Friday. The spokesman, Paul Daymond, said the FBI cannot disclose when the investigation began or what sparked it. “In general, what triggers a civil rights investigation, that could be a newspaper article, that could be a victim coming forward, it could be a number of things,” Daymond said. The video was first published by The Anniston Star after a source requesting anonymity gave it to the newspaper Wednesday.