Mississippi Could End Practice of Putting Juvenile Offenders in Privately Run PrisonsBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Feb 2012 05:39pm |
Mississippi children will no longer be held in privately run prisons under an agreement reached between juvenile justice advocates and the department of corrections. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the settlement comes after allegations of abuse and mistreatment at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility.
The facility has been the target of prison reform advocates for years because of inmates reporting abusive and violent conditions.
Michael McIntosh formed the group Friends and Family Members of Youths Incarcerated at Walnut Grove after a prison riot in 2010 that left his son badly beaten and brain damaged.
“I am looking at his eyes and they are blood shot red. His nose is swelled up because it was broken. And he had all these cuts. It is not the son I expected to see,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh says his son nearly died in the attack and has gathered other families to call for safety reforms at the state’s only privately run juvenile facility.
“Because it is all about the kids. It is not about what I really want. I want what is best for the kids and right now we are subjecting them to an environment that they literally can’t handle and they turn savage and they are all on pins and needles. It is almost like they are in survival mode every last one of them,” Mcintosh said.
A class action lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU and others following the 2010 riot claiming guards at Walnut Grove had smuggled in drugs, had sex with inmates, assaulted others and put some in solitary confinement.
SPLC lawyer Sheila Bedi says the Department of Corrections reached a settlement and agreed not to put any inmates under 18 in privately run facilities.
‘This is a really important reform because what is does is it removes the for-profit motive to imprison children in the adult criminal justice system in Mississippi,” Bedi said.
Bedi says the agreement will also mean changes for the roughly 15-hundred remaining inmates.
Those changes include increasing staff size and ending certain practices like prolonged lock downs and the use of chemical restraints like mace.
The agreement still needs a judge’s final stamp of approve. A court hearing is set for late March.
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