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Friday, May 15, 2015

DOJ SETTLES SECURITY AND FACILITY CONDITIONS CASE WITH LEFLORE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Justice Department Settles Claims Against Leflore County, Mississippi, to Address Security and Facility Conditions at the Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center

Today, the Justice Department announced that it has reached an agreement with Leflore County, Mississippi, to improve security and facility conditions at the Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center in Greenwood, Mississippi.  Leflore County committed to numerous reforms to protect children in its care from abuse and self-harm, to improve its security and emergency preparedness and to improve its medical and mental health care.  Leflore County also pledged to end the use of solitary confinement as a form of discipline and to limit solitary confinement to a cool-down period not to exceed one hour.

The department investigated conditions at Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center and in March 2011 found deficiencies in numerous areas, including the use of force and restraints, abuse investigations, suicide prevention and use of solitary confinement.

The agreement was filed today in the federal district court of the Northern District of Mississippi.  Upon court approval, it will require significant reforms that will enhance safety and security for children held at the detention center.  The reforms concern intake and classification, use of force and restraints, behavior management, solitary confinement, suicide prevention and mental health care, medical care, due process, incident reporting, sanitation, fire safety and security staffing.  In addition, the agreement contains provisions governing data gathering, quality assurance and policy revision.  The agreement requires Leflore County to obtain expert assistance to meet its reform obligations.  The agreement will terminate once Leflore County has achieved 12 consecutive months of substantial compliance with all of the agreement’s provisions.

“This agreement will help protect children who are in custody and ensure that they are detained under conditions that are secure, safe and appropriate,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “Leflore County should be credited for embracing reform, particularly in the use of solitary confinement.”

“Leflore County and the detention center administrators are to be commended for their commitment to reforming Leflore County’s juvenile detention facility and protecting children in custody,” said U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams of the Northern District of Mississippi.  “The agreement will put in place reforms that will keep at-risk children safe as they prepare to return to their communities.”

The department also found violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the detention center school.  Because the state of Mississippi took control of the Leflore County schools in 2013, the county no longer has a role in providing education services.  As a result, the agreement between the United States and Leflore does not resolve the United States’ findings of violations of children’s educational rights at the detention center.  The department is working separately with the state of Mississippi to resolve the department’s concerns about education.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 authorizes the department to seek a remedy for a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the constitutional or federal statutory rights of youth in juvenile justice institutions.  Please visit the division’s website to learn more about this act and other laws the Civil Rights Division enforces.

This agreement is due to the efforts of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Mississippi.