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Case Name J.A. v. Barbour JI-MS-0005
Docket / Court 3:07-CV-394DPJ-JCS ( S.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) Juvenile Institution
Attorney Organization Bazelon Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On July 11, 2007, a group of teenage girls in the Columbia Training School, a state-run reform school in Mississippi, filed a class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against the State of Mississippi in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Mississippi ... read more >
On July 11, 2007, a group of teenage girls in the Columbia Training School, a state-run reform school in Mississippi, filed a class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against the State of Mississippi in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Mississippi Protection and Advocacy Inc., a congressionally authorized nonprofit organization that enforces the civil rights of people with disabilities, is also a plaintiff in the suit. The plaintiffs are represented by the Bazelon Center, the Mississippi Youth Justice Project (MYJP), which is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Robert B. McDuff, a civil rights attorney in Jackson, Mississippi.

The plaintiff girls range in age from 13 to 17. All suffer from mental illnesses and all were committed to Columbia for non-violent offenses. Most are victims of past physical or sexual abuse, and they allege that the defendants have violated their constitutional rights by subjecting them to "horrendous" physical and sexual abuse. The complaint asks the court to require the state to provide federally required mental health and rehabilitative treatment to girls confined in the Columbia Training School. Specifically, they allege the following: 1) In an apparent response to unsubstantiated allegations that they planned to escape, five of the plaintiffs were shackled around their ankles for 12 hours a day for periods ranging from eight days to a month. They had to eat, attend school, use the bathroom, participate in recreational activities and visit with their families while wearing the painful shackles. 2) One girl was sexually assaulted by a male employee of the facility while she was confined in a segregated area. She reported the assault but was never informed of the results of an investigation and never received counseling to help her deal with the trauma. 3) Three of the girls cut themselves while on suicide watch. None of them received any psychological help during their isolation. No attempt was made to stabilize their moods, and staff members failed to perform periodic checks to ensure their safety. One girl was placed in a cell alone for 14 hours, during which time she carved the words "HATE ME" into her forearm. One sliced her wrists with glass, and another sliced her wrists on the edge of her concrete bunk.

According to a press release discussing the complaint, most of the girls at Columbia were sent there for nonviolent offenses such as shoplifting, running away, disorderly conduct and other minor offenses, and most could be treated far more effectively - at half the cost - in community-based programs that focus on rehabilitation and mental health treatment. The State of Mississippi spends $5 million a year to house an average of 60 girls at Columbia.

After the case was filed, the state decided to close the Columbia facility, rendering the claim for injunctive relief moot. In September 2008, the plaintiffs amended their complaint: they dropped the claims for injunctive relief so that only three claims for damages remained. The following summer, two of the defendants moved to dismiss the claims. According to the plaintiffs' Motion for Relief filed August 18, 2009, the plaintiffs inadvertently failed to respond to this motion, and the court entered an order granting the request to dismiss and ordering the plaintiffs to show cause why the entire action should not be dismissed. The court allowed the case to proceed for several more months, but after the case failed to settle, the court dismissed the case with prejudice on June 17, 2010. We have no further information about a possible settlement for damages on the remaining claims.

Elizabeth Daligga - 07/27/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Confinement/isolation
Disciplinary procedures
Education
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Personal injury
Restraints : physical
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Suicide prevention
Medical/Mental Health
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) State of Mississippi
Plaintiff Description Girls living with mental illness who were committed to Columbia Training School for non-violent offenses alleging denial of rehabilitative and mental health treatment and failure to take appropriate measures to protect them from illegal abuses
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Bazelon Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
3:07-cv-00394-DPJ-JCS (S.D. Miss.) 06/17/2010
JI-MS-0005-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 07/11/2007
JI-MS-0005-0001 PDF | Detail
Lawsuit Seeks to End Abuse of Girls in Mississippi Reform School 07/11/2007
JI-MS-0005-0002 PDF | Detail
Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Class Certification 07/16/2007
JI-MS-0005-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Larry Alexander's Answer to Amended Complaint 08/20/2007
JI-MS-0005-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss 08/20/2007
JI-MS-0005-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion for Relief from Order of Dismissal, Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute, and Response to the Court's Order to Show Cause Why the Case Should Not Be Dismissed in its Entirety 08/18/2009
JI-MS-0005-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Ball, F. Keith (S.D. Miss.) [Magistrate]
JI-MS-0005-9000
Jordan, Daniel Porter III (S.D. Miss.)
JI-MS-0005-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bedi, Sheila A. (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0001 | JI-MS-0005-0003 | JI-MS-0005-0006 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Brownstein, Rhonda C. (Alabama)
JI-MS-0005-9000
Burnim, Ira Abraham (District of Columbia)
JI-MS-0005-0001 | JI-MS-0005-0003 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Carroll, Vanessa (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-9000
Johnson, J. Clifton II (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0003 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Levins, Kristen M. (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0001 | JI-MS-0005-0003 | JI-MS-0005-9000
McDuff, Robert B. (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0001 | JI-MS-0005-0003 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Reeves, Carlton Wayne (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0003 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Gibbs, Robert L. (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-9000
Hood, Jim (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0005
Moncure, Sharon (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0004
Patterson, William A. (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0004 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Pizzetta, Harold Edward III (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0005
Sanders, Anne C. (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-9000
Shurden, Shawn Stephen (Mississippi)
JI-MS-0005-0005 | JI-MS-0005-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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