Lawsuit Filed over Conditions at Juvenile Center

By: Rachel Alig Email
By: Rachel Alig Email

Disability Rights Mississippi and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi Youth Justice Project are suing Lauderdale County over conditions in the county's 30-bed juvenile detention center. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

The groups say they are suing Lauderdale County because it is their right to access the juvenile detention center here.

"So we have a federal right to access the facility, to enter the facility, to meet with youth, tour the facility and see what it's like there and to access records," said Poonam Juneja, attorney for Disability Rights Mississippi.

The two organizations are asking a federal court to issue an order requiring the county to comply with their request for access.

Juneja said the organizations want to inspect the center after hearing reports from various sources that youth are being locked down in unsanitary, overcrowded, and abusive conditions from various sources.

"These sources have included the state agency responsible for monitoring conditions within the facility, youth who have been in the facility, as well as the county's grand jury," Juneja said.

Some of the reports claim the staff has used mace or pepper spray on the minors in the facility.

Devin Jefferson has been in and out of the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Center four times. He backs up those reports of mace being used.

"You will get maced," said Jefferson. "They might tell you that it's not going to happen but you will get maced."

Sarah Grady had a grandson in the detention center. She said her main concern is lack of education.

"When they need an education, you need to be there to give them an education," said Grady. "Because when they're in the juvenile center locked up, they can't get an education."

The lawsuit represents only one side of a legal argument.

Hank Florey, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, said in a phone interview Monday that the center is working on a punch list from state corrections to upgrade.

Lauderdale County administrator Mike Sumrall said Monday that "substantial improvements" have been made at the center the past two years. He said Lauderdale spends more on its juvenile center than some counties with similar populations, such as Jones County and Forrest County.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

What best represents your opinion of the lawsuit against Lauderdale County over the juvenile center?

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  • by Someone who knows Location: Meridian on Oct 22, 2009 at 11:33 AM
  • by LYN Location: Lauderdale County on Oct 22, 2009 at 10:07 AM
    Ever watch the TV shows where children as young as 12 kill? Have you ever had someone throw water from their toilet at you in juvenile? What will it take to put an end to these atrocious behaviors? Yes, we need Christian compassion, but they need to have a receptive heart. Just like the teacher & my high school teacher said, they have to be willing to learn. You can't just "make them" learn, behave or whatever. But you have to maintain some type of control in these areas. I'm not judging the person but the behavior. You may need to educate, but you cannot educate in an uncontrolled environment. They do offer education there. They do have ministry volunteers there. Several places donate to the JC. Get involved, volunteer, don't just complain. See for yourself what's there. Don't just take one person's [TV story] word about it. Talk to people who work there. They do NOT just sit on there doing nothing. It's hard work. Volunteer your time. You will see for yourself there's more to it.
  • by annonymous Location: somewhere out there on Oct 22, 2009 at 09:37 AM
    The JC has been debilitating for over 10 years now. There has always been talk of a tri-county, but nothing is ever done about it. Looking over the books in juvenile, many of them move on to the county & even on to prison. Juveniles are the worst offenders because they are trying to make a "name" for themselves on the streets. Some even come to the doors because it's a better place (cleaner, more/better food, less noisy, more privacy, etc than "home". Some [grand]parents even bring them because they cannot control them anymore. People, get a grip on reality, they are not there because they missed a day in school or soccer practice. They committed a crime. They were caught by law enforcement doing something against the law, against society. The numbers are rising, the crimes are escalating. You don't know about them until a story like this breaks on the news & then you are all upset because a teen was "abused" in the justice system. Get the facts. Then decide. Boot Camp, I vote: YES!
  • by Ed on Oct 21, 2009 at 08:09 PM
    best answer to this whole mess two words BOOT CAMP.... you mess up 2 year min... up @ 05:00 and bed @ 18:00 ... think would stop a lot of drama the states that had it saw a drop in crime .. until some bleeding heart took them to court and said was too hard on the kids... too strict and they hard to do work and was a requirement to hold lest 85 in classes to be granted visitation or weekend off or anything else games tv ect.. The fact is we can point the blame at parents teachers you name it.. but it boils down to the the kids taking responsibility of their actions rather then finding excuse for them.. and others saying poor baby you are so neglected and so on.. ..
  • by Loretta Location: Meridian on Oct 21, 2009 at 12:45 PM
    Give Me a Break, If you are sick of riding around town and the black people refuses to move out the street-here is what you need to do... MOVE!! It doesnt matter how your parents raise you inside of their home. These kids have a mind of their own. I seen plenty of white kids to come in and out of LCJC as I have seen many blacks
  • by Give Me a Break on Oct 21, 2009 at 09:44 AM
    I had to even respond to an idiot, but NO, of course I have not ever been in jail. Neither has any of my friends or family. You see, I was not raised that way. Forget jail, I was more scared of my mama and still am!!! A question to the African Americans on this site: Is it a cultural thing that AAs walk down the middle of the street and will not move for traffic. I am so tired of driving around town and they will not move!!!
  • by Joe Location: Meridian on Oct 21, 2009 at 06:57 AM
    The Grandmother of one of the deliquents ....gets me where's the Muvva and da baba dada
  • by Pat Location: Meridian on Oct 20, 2009 at 09:06 PM
    Leroy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We need to keep the celeberties that you mentioned out of this. As far as getting along you always want to bring up race. By the way the two that beat up my grandson was WHITE, but not necessary bad. Maybe bad influence for one of the kids and a very angry kid that life has handed him a rotten egg and he doesn't know what to do but act out. It's time to face up to the problems we have in our city and county and do something about it and quit hiding behind Obama, Oprah, Jessie, Big Al, and Larry King. I would probably mace these kids every day if I was locked up with them. I think the repeated offenders should go to the Big Boy Facility and maybe when they come out they can sit down in school and keep their mouth shut and act like they have some sence. So Leroy watch what you say today because tomorrow you may have to eat your words
  • by FBI Location: Meridian on Oct 20, 2009 at 07:18 PM
    Whats this world coming to? If those kids honestly wanted an education they would be in school, not the DETENTION FACILITY. I know first hand that most of the kids that go in there dont care about anything other than selling dope and representing the gang theyre in. There are some that are good kids but most are a lost cause. I hate to say that but unfortunately its true!
  • by joe on Oct 20, 2009 at 06:16 PM
    sounds to me like he didnt get maced quite enough. Must be a nice place for him to visit so many times
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