Hinds Co. juvenile justice center no longer under federal court order, officials say
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than a decade after it was put in place, a federal court order governing Hinds County’s juvenile justice center is being lifted.
On October 13, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan agreed to terminate the consent decree governing the Henley Young Patton Juvenile Justice Center without prejudice.
The county is expected to host a press conference next week at the McDowell Road facility to discuss the judge’s decision.
“For  years, the county has operated under that consent decree, but as a result of the strides we’ve made, as well as the steps taken by our most recent board [of supervisors] over the last year, the court has allowed us to terminate the decree,” said Board Attorney Tony Gaylor. “It was battle that involved a lot of expenditures and several monitors from all over the country, but many changes have taken place.”
The initial case was filed against the county in 2011 and cited “inhuman and unconstitutional practices” at the facility, “including regularly isolating children in small cells for 20 -23 hours a day and subjecting them to sensory deprivation.”
Court filings also stated that children “languished in their cells, receiving sporadic access to educational services and counseling services” and that detainees with serious mental health needs “are frequently denied the services necessary to treat their conditions.”
The court handed down its first decree in 2012. Since then, the decree has been extended numerous times, including in February 2019 for a term of two years.
The latest order included mandates to protect the health of detainees, as well as rules regarding cell confinement, staffing, structured programming, disciplinary practices and the like.
The decree also apparently limited the number of detainees that could be held at the facility, a factor that became all the more challenging when Henley Young had to start housing juveniles charged as adults. Those detainees previously had been housed at the Raymond Detention Center, but no longer could be due to conditions there, court filings indicate.
In March, the county asked for the decree to be lifted, in part, citing rising crime numbers among young people.
“Based on its design, Henley Young has enough beds to detain up to 80 juvenile detainees, one detainee per cell. Thus, so long as the 32-detainee limit remains in place, that leaves 48 out of the 80 beds available sitting empty every day,” wrote Henley Young Executive Director Marshand Crisler. “Yet, youth in the ‘free world’ throughout the county continue to commit crimes that are serious enough to cause those juveniles to be charged as adults.”
Crisler went on to say that, based on his own perception, “juvenile[s]... are increasingly committing crimes in groups, thus requiring more than one juvenile to be detained when a crime is committed. Juveniles charged as adults can be highly dangerous, and they must be detained for the safety of the public.”
Meanwhile, Eric Dorsey, quality assurance coordinator for Henley Young, said the county has revised or created 115 new policies and procedures to govern the facility since the original decree was put in place. He says the county also provides ongoing training for Henley Young employees and has an-house training director and two training coordinators, “all of whom are responsible for assisting with the training program and fulfilling the facility’s training needs.”
The Board of Supervisor’s press conference is slated for Monday, October 31, at 1 p.m., at Henley Young. For more information, contact the Office of the Board Attorney at (601) 968-6797.
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