Miss. Juvenile Detention Center Agrees to Reforms

     GREENVILLE, Miss. (CN) – A juvenile detention center that once restrained youth inmates by chaining them to fixed objects reached an agreement on reforms with the Justice Department on Wednesday, four years after an investigation first uncovered widespread problems at the facility.
     The Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center dropped some of its most controversial practices after the 2011 investigation exposed numerous deficiencies, including the use of force and restraints, abuse investigations and the use of solitary confinement of its inmates aged 10-17.
     But a 2013 on-site inspection of the 30-bed facility revealed ongoing violations were still being committed that put youth inmates at high risk of harm, according to an agreement filed Tuesday in Mississippi federal court.
     “In the months following the 2013 on-site visit, the United States and Leflore entered into negotiations to resolve the security and facility conditions violations indentified in the findings letter,” the May 12 agreement says. “The United States and Leflore have reached a settlement to resolve those claims and contemporaneously are filing a ‘Joint Motion for Entry of Settlement Agreement’ and ‘Memorandum Brief in Support of Entry of Settlement Agreement.'”
     The joint brief urges the court to approve the settlement agreement “because it is the result of arms-length negotiations by the parties, and it provides for relief that is fair, adequate and reasonable as well as narrowly tailored to remedy the United States’ allegations of ongoing violations of federal rights at the detention center.”
     According to the DOJ, upon court approval, the agreement will require the facility to undergo significant reforms “that will enhance safety and security for children held at the detention center.”
     “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 in a statement.
     The reforms include changes to intake and classification, use of force and restraints, behavior management, solitary confinement, suicide prevention, mental health care, medical care and due process.
     “Leflore County should be credited for embracing reform, particularly in the use of solitary confinement,” Gupta said.
     The agreement will terminate after 12 consecutive months of Leflore County being in compliance with all of the agreement’s provisions.

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