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Federal Judge Modifies Hinds County Jail Consent Decree, Keeping Strong Demands

Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones (center) addressed the media on April 14, 2022, at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. He spoke on the injunction of U.S. Southern Mississippi District Judge Carlton Reeves that modified the 2016 federal consent decree for the running of the jail. Photo by Kayode Crown

A federal judge has altered the consent decree that has set standards the Hinds County Detention Center has struggled to meet, streamlining requirements, deleting some and removing its governance of the detention of minors both in the adult facility and at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center.

On April 13, 2022, U.S. Southern District of Mississippi Judge Carlton Reeves modified the 64-page consent decree that Hinds County Detention Center had been under since 2016. The next day, Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones called the move a step in the right direction at a press conference outside the Raymond jail. The judge removed many portions of the original consent decree, but left demands about staffing, use of force, reporting, sexual-misconduct prevention and investigation improvements in place.

After Reeves held contempt-charge hearings against the county from Feb. 14, 2022, to March 1, 2022, he had found the county in contempt a second time on March 23, 2022, after the same conclusion the previous month, both times outlining various violations.

While the March 23, 2022, contempt order paved the way for putting the jail in receivership, Judge Reeves has not made a ruling in that regard. However, on Wednesday he modified the 2016 federal consent decree following the request from Hinds County to either terminate or modify it.

“It’s always been my ultimate mindset to respect whatever the decision is regarding the courts, whatever the outcome of any situation regarding our court proceeding,” Sheriff Jones said at his press briefing at the Raymond Detention Center.

“I will continue to operate based on the injunction that was issued yesterday by Judge Reeves,” he added. “We are still awaiting the outcome of the final ruling of the trial, but this is how we will continue to operate on a day-to-day basis as well.”

Judge Carlton W Reeves
U.S. Southern Mississippi District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled on April 23, 2022, on Hinds County’s request to terminate or modify the 2016 federal consent decree over the running of its jail. File photo courtesy Carlton Reeves

Juvenile Detention Center Removed from Decree

In the new streamlined injunction, the federal court removed the Hinds County Joint State-County Work Center from the consent decree because it has successfully implemented direct supervision and the staff to routinely comply with the protection-from-harm standards and train regularly on policy.

The judge also deleted the section on the detention of minors at the Raymond Detention Center because the county no longer detains youths at RDC. Another consent decree now governs the Henley-Young Juvenile Detention Center. “The original sin leading to these sections of the Content Decree was the placement of youth at RDC prior to 2016,” the judge wrote. “There have been no youth placed at the RDC since February 2019.”

For the Raymond Detention Center, the judge removed the section of the consent decree regarding setting up a criminal justice coordinating committee.

Judge Reeves said the committee’s role was to “streamline criminal justice processes and identify and develop solutions and interventions designed to lead to diversion from arrest, detention, and incarceration.”

“Although these sections were designed to aid the County in complying with its basic obligations, they exceed the Constitutional ‘floor’ and thus, do not survive the County’s termination motion,” the judge wrote.

Judge Carlton Reeves removed both the Hinds County Joint State-County Work Center and the Henley-Young Juvenile Detention Center from the consent decree Hinds County has been under since 2016 on the running of its jails. Photo by Kayode Crown

Another section that the judge cut from the consent decree regards “Continuous Improvement and Quality Assurance” because those requirements “exceed the constitutional floor and thus, do not survive the County’s termination motion.” The judge added that they were to help the county comply with its basic obligations.

Mental Health Checks For Inmates in Segregation

Judge Reeves continues to require that the county meet staffing, use of force, reporting, sexual misconduct prevention and investigation demands, including protocols for mental health checks, as the original consent decree required.

“Qualified Mental Health Professionals must conduct mental health rounds at least once a week (in a private setting if necessary, to elicit accurate information), to assess the mental health status of all prisoners in segregation and the effect of segregation on each prisoner’s mental health, in order to determine whether continued placement in segregation is appropriate,” the Judge wrote. “These mental health rounds must not be a substitute for treatment.”

Court-appointed jail monitor Elizabeth Simpson reported in July 2021 that the size of the mental-health caseload at the jail includes “a larger percentage of extremely unstable, acutely ill detainees.” She noted that the two suicides recorded earlier that year at that jail highlight the need to “review and make more rigorous the facility’s suicide prevention program.”

In reference to former detainee Justin Mosley, who committed suicide by hanging in April 2021 at the center, Simpson said that officials handled him inappropriately. “The individual who committed suicide on April 18th was being housed in Booking because he had inappropriately touched a female officer,” she wrote. “His actions were clearly inappropriate, but there is no logic to housing him in Booking as a result.”

“This was not a case where he had climbed through the cell door window of C-4 and so could not be contained in segregation,” she added. “This individual was also a seriously mentally ill individual, and an Interdisciplinary Team meeting would have been appropriate to consider an appropriate response to his behavior.”

The judge’s April 13, 2022, injunction added that the county must develop and implement restrictions on the segregation of prisoners with serious mental illness. The injunction also includes a prohibition of incarceration of anyone in the county based on the inability to pay fines. The provision was part of the 2016 consent decree but Simpson wrote in the April 5, 2022, monitor report that the county was not fully compliant with that provision.

“Ensure that the jail is overseen by a qualified Jail administrator and a leadership team with substantial education, training, and experience in the management of a large jail,” the judge added.

Former jail administrator Kathryn Bryan resigned last year, complaining of a lack of support, and Sheriff Jones announced on Jan. 31, 2022, that the resignation was effective immediately. The council hired Frank Shaw in the interim.

Court-appointed monitor Simpson commented two weeks ago on the new hire. “Mr. Shaw does not meet the requirements of the Settlement Agreement to serve as the Jail Administrator because his entire career has been limited to state prison operations and he has no jail management experience,” she wrote in an April 5, 2022, court filing.

The Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond, Miss., had been under a consent decree since 2016. On April 13, 2022, U.S. Southern Mississippi District Judge Carlton Reeves modified it, leaving and adding strong demands while removing others. Photo by Kayode Crown

Sheriff Jones said he is not sure when a new jail administrator will come on board. “Right now, the position is open and myself, along with the board attorneys and others, we are conducting a search for a jail administrator right now,” he said at the press conference.

When the Mississippi Free Press asked about needed activities for the inmates to engage in, Jones said COVID-19 had disrupted previous plans.

“We’re now getting back into a position where we can offer some of the programs,” he explained. “Just recently, we are already getting ready to get the GED program back going.”

“We were getting ready to get, I think, religious services going again and as well as recreation,” he added. “So we’re getting back to that point right now.”

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