A decades-long court agreement to address unconstitutional conditions at the Hinds County youth detention center has ended, but advocates and county officials said work will continue to ensure the wellbeing of detainees.
“Our concern for children detained at Henley-Young continues, and we look forward to the next phase of the critical work of improving outcomes for youth in Hinds County,” Disability Rights of Mississippi and the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a joint statement Monday.
Disability Rights of Mississippi said this month all parties agreed to end the consent decree. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan approved termination of the decree Oct. 13.
The organizations sued the county over conditions and treatment of children at the center, including denial of mental health treatment and insufficient educational, rehabilitative and recreational programming. They settled and entered a consent decree in 2012, and that agreement has been amended three times and extended multiple times.
As a result of the consent decree, improvements have been made at the facility, including increased access to mental health care, staffing and education, officials and advocates said.
Hinds County officials gathered Monday at Henley-Young to celebrate the end of the consent decree.
“We’re not going to let up,” said Marshand Crisler, who has been the center’s executive director since January. “We will continue to implement the policies and procedures to keep this facility moving forward.”
He hopes the facility can become a model for other facilities in the Jackson area and across the state.
Since the consent decree ended, the county has increased its number of youth detainees to 45 from the 32-detainee cap set in the consent decree, Crisler said. He said the center has the staffing to meet that need, and that the facility has the capacity to house up to 80 detainees.
In its statement, Disability Rights of Mississippi expressed concern about the county’s intention to increase the number of youth at Henley-Young.
“We will not tolerate a regression of conditions or services due to an increased population in the facility, or for any other reason,” the organization said.
Crisler said 35 of the youth at Henley-Young have been charged as adults in the criminal court system. The others are under the jurisdiction of the county’s Youth Court.
Under the consent decree, the county began housing juveniles charged as adults at Henley-Young. Attorneys for the county argued that the detainee cap became hard to work with once the center started housing them, according to court documents.
Tony Gaylor, attorney for the Board of Supervisors, said the population rise is a concern at any of the county’s detention facilities and is related to crime. The county hopes to keep Henley-Young’s population down by working with the court system and district attorney, he said.
Hinds County Court Judge Carlyn Hicks, who oversees the Youth Court, said taxpayers can expect savings because the county will no longer have to pay attorney’s fees to manage the consent decree.
With the county no longer paying those fees, she hopes to see it reinvested in the community and diversion efforts that alleviate the need for young people to come to the detention center.