SPLC Threatens Legal Action Over Juvenile Center

By: Nick Adam Email
By: Nick Adam Email

Lauderdale County is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Sheriff Billy Sollie wants to move youthful offenders out of the much maligned Juvenile Center in Meridian, but Rankin County is backing away from a partnership that would have given local offenders a place to go.

The sticking point seems to be the Southern Poverty Law Center's monitoring of the Lauderdale County center.

The SPLC has various restrictions on juvenile rehabilitation, and Sollie says the Rankin facility uses some techniques that Southern Poverty is against.

"Southern Poverty is adamantly against a paramilitary style rehabilitation," says Sollie, "[and in the Rankin facility] the youth are moved from one housing unit to another in a single line, I never heard anyone screaming or barking out orders, but it was an orderly movement from one room to the other."

The SPLC has threatened legal action against Lauderdale County, and they have given the sheriff's department until March 1st to get the issue resolved.

"Something has to be done," says Sollie, "either shut the center down and not temporarily house any youth here in Lauderdale County, or get Southern Poverty to work with Rankin County."

Sheriff Sollie is holding out hope that an agreement can be worked out with that March 1st deadline from the SPLC right around the corner.

Newscenter 11 spoke to an SPLC official Friday evening by phone. Staff attorney Elissa Johnson says that improvements at the center are not coming fast enough, and they imposed the deadline because they feel that the safety of children is in jeopardy.


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