Changes Likely on the Way at Walnut GroveBy Daniel Cherry | Published 22 Mar 2012 09:10pm |
Inmates housed at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Leake County could soon see some big changes. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a federal court settlement is likely on the way after allegations of physical and sexual abuse by guards.
Five current inmates testified before U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves about their experiences at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. In spite of an ongoing investigation into conditions there, testimony paints a picture where inmates are beaten, sexually abused, and even stabbed, one stabbing incident allegedly occurred just this week. Marietta Larry's son testified and now she's worried guards will retaliate against him.
"I'm a little bit uncomfortable simply because I spoke with him briefly, and I could see the fear within him. That even being transported back onto the unit, some issues may occur."
Judge Reeves gave a stern warning to anyone who punished the inmates for their testimony. Reeves is deciding whether to approve a class action settlement that would remove any children under 17 out of the facility and provide additional protections for those older than 18. Sheila Bedi is lead council representing all 1,200 inmates at the facility. She says due to the testimony she expects Reeves to act quickly.
"My sense was that the judge took very seriously the testimony that he heard, and understood that the young people at Walnut Grove are in imminent risk of danger and that these agreements will put in place some protections."
For parents like Michael McIntosh, who's son was beaten while house at Walnut Grove to the point he now suffers brain damage, this settlement is uplifting.
"I'm encouraged by what I've seen. It gives you hope. When you've got a little hope it makes you feel better. Even though this fight is a long fight and it's not over yet, it's something to look forward to."
Judge Reeves is expected to approve the settlement.
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