Lawsuit Alleges Filth, Abuse at juvenile Detention Facility


Harrison County, MS—Two advocacy programs are filing suit against a Mississippi juvenile detention center, alleging that the youth in custody there are being subjected to physical and mental abuse, and live in filthy, subpar conditions.

The Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center, a privately managed facility, is being accused of “horrific physical and mental abuse,” including assaults on youth by staff members, unsanitary conditions which have resulted in staph infections and scabies cases, and overcrowding.

Some of the youth who are incarcerated at the center are allegedly forced to sleep on the cement floors because the facility is so overcrowded. Others are on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in filthy, insect-ridden cells, according to the lawsuit, which has been filed against Harrison County.

The County pays $1.6 million each year to the Mississippi Security Police, a private security company, to manage the juvenile center. An attorney for the company, Tim Holleman, denies the allegations and claims that he has visited the facility and found it clean. Additionally, he says, none of the residents have ever complained of abuse having taken place.

The Mississippi Youth Justice Project and Mississippi Protection and Advocacy Inc. filed the lawsuit on behalf of a 17-year-old male who is detained at the facility. He is identified only as D.W.

D.W. claims to have been assaulted by guards and forced to sleep on a thin, urine-soaked mat. He has received no mental health assessment or treatment, despite having attempted suicide by hanging.

Thirty other youth who have been interviewed by attorneys collaborate these allegations. The suit names excessive violence and inappropriate use of restraints as examples of physical abuse. Mental abuse reportedly perpetrated on the children includes being taunted, sworn at, or ignored by staff members. Additionally, the suit says that the infrastructure is contaminated with mold and excrement, that personal hygiene items are not provided, and that detainees are denied the chance to exercise or engage in recreational activities.

The facility, which has a maximum capacity of 48 juveniles, sometimes is forced to accommodate as many as 60.

Mississippi Protection and Advocacy Inc., a non-profit organization, is requesting that its representatives be allowed to tour the facility. It is seeking a court injunction which would compel the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center to “cease its unconstitutional and unlawful practices.”


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