A federal receiver will be appointed to manage the Hinds County jail, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote officials have received multiple chances to fix the Raymond jail, but they have been unable to. The court will appoint a receiver by Nov. 1.
“We can’t wait for continued destruction of the facilities,” Reeves wrote in his 26-page order. “We can’t wait for the proliferation of more contraband. We can’t wait for more assaults. We can’t wait for another death. The time to act is now. There is no other choice, unfortunately.”
Receivership, a form of intervention by the federal court to take an institution out of the hands of local or state management, was an option considered during three weeks of hearings at the federal courthouse in Jackson earlier this year. Hernandez Stroud, counsel for the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said receivership for county jails is uncommon, the Clarion Ledger reported.
The decision to appoint a receiver comes years after the U.S. Department of Justice investigated the jail and settled with the county to come up with a consent decree, whose goal was to help Hinds County address unconstitutional issues at the jail.
Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun said Friday the county will work with its attorneys to come up with an action plan about receivership.
The county and U.S. Department of Justice can submit ideas for powers and duties of the receiver, but ultimately what the receiver can do will be up to the court.
Calhoun said despite the decision, current members of the board have made progress at the jail, including making plans to build a new one.
“We’ve done a lot to improve the facility since this board was sworn in, and we think we’ve made a lot of progress in the jail,” he said.
In his order, Reeves said the county has spent millions of dollars on the jail, but that hasn’t fixed conditions. He also said building a new jail won’t fix unconstitutional issues occurring now.
In April, Reeves issued an injunction to scale back the county’s consent decree. During a press conference at the time, Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said the lifted decree was “a step in the right direction.”
By May, the county indicated that it planned to appeal.
Attorneys for the county filed a motion for reconsideration for a March contempt order Reeves filed against officials for failing to fix problems at the jail, which Reeves denied in his Friday order.
A July 19 hearing was a last chance for the county to offer evidence that jail conditions were being addressed, Reeves said. Testimony and evidence showed a risk of harm remains at the Hinds County Detention Center, he wrote.
A team of court appointed monitors have visited the jail since 2016 and offered ways to help the county comply with the consent decree. Reeves said the monitoring team will stop its work once a receiver is appointed.
“After ample time and opportunity, regretfully, it is clear that the County is incapable, or unwilling, to handle its affairs,” Reeves wrote in his Friday order. “The County’s motion for reconsideration is denied. Additional intervention is required. It is time to appoint a receiver.”
Reeves offered two other extreme, less likely alternatives to receivership: the release of jail detainees into the public and closure of the jail. The other was to require the Hinds County Board of Supervisors and sheriff to spend at least a week detained in the jail to experience what life is like there.
“Experiencing life at the jail firsthand would surely motivate the County’s leaders to correct unconstitutional conditions therein. But this also seems an extreme remedy—at least, at
present,” he wrote.
Read the full ruling here: