JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — The Department of Justice reached a settlement concerning the findings on the Hinds County jails in Raymond and Downtown Jackson.
The DOJ released reports in May 2015 saying that Hinds County authorities failed to protect prisoners from violence and excessive force. The department also found that inadequate staffing and training, a backlog in record filing and a lack of centralized information resulted in prisoners being held beyond court-ordered release dates. The DOJ said those issues are a direct violation of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
The settlement agreement incorporates broader criminal justice system reform through diversion at the front end and reentry to the community after incarceration, among other things.
“Across the board, this settlement will make the Hinds County criminal justice system smarter and fairer,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “If implemented, these reforms will make pretrial detainees, prisoners, corrections staff and the entire community safer, while also ensuring that vulnerable individuals get access to the treatment, care and community services they need and deserve. We commend the county for its commitment to making these reforms a reality.”
“For too long, the conditions in the Jail have posed a serious challenge to law enforcement and the safety of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi. “I appreciate the commitment made by Hinds County officials to turn the page and begin making necessary reforms.”
The settlement agreement – subject to approval by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Mississippi – requires the county to implement a series of reforms across various stages of the criminal justice system, including the following:
- Improve safety and security within the jail through better staffing and supervision, revised policies and physical plant improvements
- Limit the use of segregation and improve access to screening, treatment and community-based services for special needs prisoners, including juveniles and prisoners with serious mental illness
- Improve mental health and youth services, including better integration of jail operations with local community mental health and youth programs
- Enhance communication and coordination among different agencies involved with the criminal justice process
- Ensure compliance with due process liberty protections as prisoners navigate the criminal justice system