JACKSON, Mississippi — Hinds County hasn't done enough to improve conditions at its juvenile center and a federal judge should hold the county in contempt, plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the facility say.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the contempt motion Thursday before U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III.
The law center and other plaintiffs sued Hinds County supervisors over conditions at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center in 2011. The law center alleged that children were being denied mental health services and subjected to verbal abuse and threats by staff.
The lawsuit resulted in a settlement agreement in 2012, which called for an expert to monitor the facility. Although the most recent report by the monitor does show continued improvement, the juvenile center still has not reached substantial compliance with any of the 71 provisions that are part of the settlement.
In December, the director of the National Center for Youth in Custody recommended an extensive outside training program for Henley-Young employees. She said the center was still short of staff, employees were being put to work with no training, and they hadn't been taught the requirements of the consent decree.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said in court papers 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.
Lisa Ross, a lawyer representing Hinds County in the case, declined to comment. Documents filed with the federal court show Ross and county attorney Pieter Teeuwissen sought to negotiate a less extensive monitoring agreement with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"While we are not at substantial compliance, we are way ahead of where we were when we entered the consent agreement," Ross wrote in a Jan. 27 email to law center attorney Corrie Cockrell.
Cockrell rejected the offer for a six-month extension which could have cut down on the number of monitoring visits.
"Such a request is implausible because Hinds County is not in substantial compliance with any of the 71 provisions set forth in the agreement," Cockrell wrote in a Jan. 31 letter. She also stated the plaintiffs intend to seek attorney's fees from the county related to litigating the extension.
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