JACKSON, Miss (AP) — A federal judge has taken control of a Mississippi prison after citing “seriously deficient” conditions at the facility.
In a Friday ruling, Judge Carlton Reeves of the U.S. Southern District of Mississippi placed the Hinds County Raymond Detention Center in Raymond into receivership. The judge will soon appoint an expert, called a “receiver”, to temporarily manage the establishment in the hope of improving conditions.
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“After ample time and opportunity, unfortunately, it is clear that the county is unable or unwilling to manage its affairs,” the judge wrote. “Additional intervention is needed. It’s time to appoint a receiver.
Reeves said deficiencies in supervision and staffing led to “a startling range of assaults, as well as deaths”. Seven people died last year while being held in prison, he said.
County officials said they are still digesting the order and determining whether to appeal, WLBT-TV reported.
According to Hernandez Stroud, an attorney at NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, federal and state judges have only ordered sequestrations or similar transfers of control for jails and prisons about eight times.
The details governing the receivership will be decided by Reeves.
“What that receivership order looks like is completely up to the discretion of the court,” Stroud said. “What powers to give the receiver, how long the receivership should last – those are matters for Judge Reeves to determine.”
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Reeves wrote in his ruling that the facility’s staffing levels are “particularly egregious.”
“Persistent staffing and oversight deficiencies embolden gangs and encourage the widespread flow of contraband, including narcotics and weapons,” Reeves wrote. “Prison staff continue to receive inadequate training regarding the use of force, such as the use of tasers.”
He also wrote that the cell doors still do not lock and that the lack of lighting in the cells makes life “miserable for the inmates living there and prevents the guards from adequately monitoring the inmates”. He also said guards often turned to sleep instead of monitoring cameras in the control room.
Reeves’ decision comes months after he agreed to scale back the county jail’s 2016 consent decree with the federal government to address “unconstitutional conditions” at Raymond and two other facilities that make up the Hinds County prison system. .