- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union and others will argue at a federal court hearing Wednesday that the Mississippi Department of Corrections fails to protect prisoners at the privately run Walnut Grove Correctional Facility despite promising three years ago to reduce the facility’s violent atmosphere.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/1FcMugz ) U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will hear testimony from prisoners, a corrections expert and the corporate vice president of Utah-based Management and Training Corp., which has a contract to run the prison.

“MTC has failed to implement fundamental security measures to ensure prisoner safety, which resulted in two major riots last year that left 25 prisoners seriously injured,” read a joint press release by the ACLU National Prison Project, Southern Poverty Law Center and the Jackson-based law firm McDuff and Byrd.

The ACLU and SPLC claim the state thus has violated its 2012 settlement agreement to a federal class-action lawsuit the groups had filed two years prior. That lawsuit alleged that Walnut Grove staff promoted a culture of violence and routinely beat and sexually assaulted inmates, most of whom were juveniles.

A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed many of the claims and called the sexual misconduct at Walnut Grove “among the worst that we have seen at any facility anywhere in the nation.”

As a result, the state agreed to remove juveniles from Walnut Grove and take measures to reduce violence there.

But defendants filed a motion earlier this month to terminate the consent decree binding them to the conditions of the settlement agreement.

They claim MTC is in “substantial compliance.” They also asked Reeves to stop the hearing.

If Reeves allows the hearing to continue, it could last through the end of the week.


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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