A federal judge will be appointed to run the Hinds County Jail, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that officials have been given several chances to fix Raymond’s jail, but they have failed. The court will appoint a manager by November 1.
“We cannot wait for the destruction of the facilities to continue,” Reeves wrote in his 26-page order. “We cannot expect an increase in smuggling. We cannot wait for new attacks. We cannot wait for another death. The time to act is now. Unfortunately, there is no other choice.”
Concert, a form of federal court intervention to take the institution out of the hands of local or state governments, was an option that had been under consideration for three weeks hearings at the federal courthouse in Jackson earlier this year. Hernandez Stroud, an adviser to the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the process to eliminate county jails is rare, Clarion Ledger informed.
The commissioner’s decision comes years after the U.S. Department of Justice investigated the jail and agreed with the county to work out a consent decree aimed at helping Hinds County address unconstitutional problems at the jail.
Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun said Friday that the county will work with its attorneys to develop a plan of action for the bankruptcy proceedings.
The county and U.S. Department of Justice may offer ideas regarding the commissioner’s powers and duties, but ultimately what the owner can do will be up to the court.
Calhoun said that despite the decision, current board members have made progress on the jail, including plans to build a new one.
“We have done a lot to improve the facility since this board was sworn in, and we believe we have made significant progress at the jail,” he said.
In his ruling, Reeves said the county has spent millions of dollars on the jail, but that hasn’t fixed conditions. He also said that building a new prison will not solve the unconstitutional problems that arise now.
In April, Reeves issued an injunction to overturn the county’s consent decree. During a news conference at the time, Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said the repealed ordinance was “a step in the right direction.”
In May, the district said it planned to appeal.
County attorneys filed a motion to review a March contempt order against officials for failing to fix problems at the jail, which Reeves denied in his order Friday.
The July 19 hearing was the last chance for the county to present evidence that the terms of the incarceration are being reviewed, Reeves said. Testimony and evidence showed that the risk of harm remains at the Hinds County Detention Center, he wrote.
A group of court-appointed monitors has been visiting the jail since 2016 and suggesting ways to help the county comply with the consent decree. Reeves said the monitoring group will cease its work once the commissioner is appointed.
“After sufficient time and opportunity, it has unfortunately become clear that the county is unable or unwilling to resolve its affairs,” Reeves wrote in his order Friday. “The County’s motion for reconsideration is denied. Additional intervention is required. It’s time to appoint an administrator.”
Reeves offered two other extreme, less likely alternatives to detention: releasing prisoners to the public and closing the prison. Another was to request that the Hinds County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff spend at least a week in the jail to get a feel for what life is like there.
“The first-hand experience of life in the prison would undoubtedly motivate the county leaders to correct the unconstitutional conditions there. But it also seems like an extreme remedy – at least on
the present,” he wrote.
Read the full text of the resolution here: