On June 1, 2011, a juvenile detainee filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi against Hinds County, Mississippi under 42 U.S.C 1983. The plaintiff, represented by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center, alleged that the county's confinement policies and practices violated the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, plaintiff alleged excessive confinement in cells, inadequate mental health care, verbal abuse, and inadequate rehabilitation efforts. Plaintiff sought injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages.
Within the same week of filing, the complaint was amended to include two plaintiffs and additional causes of action under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act of 1986, the Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights Program, and of the Protection and Advocacy Developmental Disabilities Program (together, these are the Protection and Advocacy statutes).
On July 25, 2011, the Court (Judge Daniel P. Jordan) granted a preliminary injunction, making previous state court orders that limited plaintiffs' access to youth in the Henly-Young Juvenile Center unenforceable because of the Protection and Advocacy (P & A) statutes mentioned above. The Court ordered the parties to agree on and submit a draft for a preliminary injunction. The next month, the court signed an injunction giving the plaintiffs much greater access to the Henly-Young Juvenile Center and its residents.
On March 28, 2012, the Court entered an agreed settlement order, which lasted two years. The settlement agreement required Henly-Young Juvenile Center to change its intake procedures to include health screening and provide greater access to medication; to improve staffing and lower crowding; to allow youth more time out of their cells and provide educational and rehabilitative programming; to make punishment/discipline less severe; to provide for better hygiene, food and clothing; to allow more visitation with family and implement policies preventing verbal abuse by staff and suicide by youth; and to allow for continued access to the center by the plaintiffs.
In February of 2014, the plaintiffs moved the court to extend the agreement and require defendants to pay attorney fees to the plaintiffs for not complying with the settlement agreement. On April 25, 2014, the Court extended the agreement, finding that the defendants had not substantially complied with its provisions. It also found that because the agreement was a consent decree, and not a private agreement between the parties, it could hold the defendants in contempt of the court and require them to pay attorney's fees to the plaintiffs. However, the Court decided that it would hold defendants in contempt, but not require them to pay attorney fees on that date. The defendants were given until March 28, 2016, to comply, and the plaintiffs were able to file another motion for the fees if the defendants do not comply in the future.
In August 2014, the court's monitor issued his first status report recognizing significant, but partial progress in compliance with the terms of the consent decree. Status reports continued to be issued through the rest of 2014, all of 2015, and the first part of 2016. On January 27, 2016, the monitor noted continued compliance with the agreement and that it was the first time that the defendant institution had "adequate and stable leadership."
On March 25, 2016, Judge Jordan extended the consent decree to March 28, 2018, at the request of both parties. On April 15, 2016, the Hinds County Youth Court, led by Judge Skinner, filed a motion to intervene, arguing that the settlement agreement's provision allowing Henley Young Juvenile Justice Center to release juveniles without the Hinds County Youth Court’s authority violated Mississippi law. He also filed a related lawsuit in state court. The parties then jointly filed a motion for an injunction enjoining any state court action, arguing that the consent decree was no broader than needed to effectuate federal law. On May 25, 2016, Judge Jordan issued an agreed order maintaining the status quo and enjoining the state court proceeding until a ruling on the merits was issued.
The Hinds County Youth Court then sought to execute subpoenas but both plaintiff and defendants resisted, filing motions to quash on June 16, 2016. On June 21, 2016, Judge Jordan granted the motion to quash, finding that the Hinds County Youth Court had no standing to issue subpoenas.
On June 27, 2016, the parties and the Hinds County Youth Court came to a settlement. Hinds County Youth Court agreed to withdraw as intervenor. The original settlement agreement was also amended to delete part of Provision 2.1, restricting stays at the facility to 21 days and 13.1, allocating funding to the facility for mental health services. The parties agreed that the Hinds County Youth Court would have jurisdiction over releases after the 21-day period at the facility and allowing detention beyond the 21 day period if no other facilities are available and the child is referred for health services.
As of September 8, 2016, status reports, per the consent decree, are ongoing.Maurice Youkanna - 06/12/2014
Craig Streit - 10/30/2016