Hinds County: Federal judge again rejects request to end jail oversight

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Federal judge again rejects Hinds County request to end county jail oversight

For the second time this year, officials have asked a federal judge to lessen or end court oversight of the county jail and had their request rejected. 

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves denied the county’s motion to stay its new injunction order – a scaled back version of the consent decree the county had since 2016, according to documents filed in the Southern District of Mississippi. 

He said violence and constitutional violations are “current and ongoing” at the jail. Reeves also mentioned a recent court monitor report that suggests the county doesn’t intend to comply with the injunction order or the previous consent decree.

“As the United States aptly put it, the court is being ‘gas-lighted,’” Reeves wrote in a Sept. 2 order. “No more.”

Continuing remedial efforts will lead to more confrontations, delays and serious harm to people detained at the jail, he said. 

Reeves put the injunction in place in April in response to the county’s request to modify the consent decree in January and after weeks of hearings in February and March. During the hearings, the county’s attorneys argued the consent decree asked too much and hindered progress. 

But months later, the same attorneys have argued the new injunction “micromanages the day-to-day operations of (the jail), and is cost prohibitive,” according to court documents. 

The county filed a request to stay the injunction in July pending an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Reeves said under the new injunction, the county has greater control of the jail than it did with the previous order. But the county still needs to correct constitutional violations and meet minimum standards, he said. 

In July, Reeves determined federal receivership was the only way to bring the Hinds County jail into compliance and address a number of issues.  

The county pushed back against receivership during the hearings earlier in the year and in recent court filings. 

Reeves is set to appoint a receiver by Nov. 1 and choose from three candidates proposed by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The county and DOJ have each outlined what kind of duties and responsibilities the receiver should have, but they have yet to find a balance between setting limits and giving the receiver room to do their job, according to court documents. 

“The county has shown a clear lack of urgency and competency since this action was initiated over six years ago, and there is no indication that if left to its own devices, the situation will change any time soon,” Reeves wrote in his Sept. 2 order denying a stay of the injunction.

“Detainees, who once again are persons presumed to be innocent, will continue to suffer substantial harm unless the county is held accountable,” he wrote. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Hinds County: Federal Judge Again Rejects Request To End Jail OversightHinds County: Federal Judge Again Rejects Request To End Jail Oversight