Mississippi county responds to federal seizure of jail
JACKSON, Miss (AP) — Officials in Mississippi’s most populous county said they were weighing legal options after a federal judge seized control of a local jail that saw the deaths of seven detainees last year.
In a joint news release, the Hinds County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Tyree Jones bristled at the appointment of a “receiver” to temporarily manage the Raymond Detention Center in Raymond.
“While we respect the Court’s decision, we are disappointed in it,” the officials said. “A receiver is an unelected official who is wholly unaccountable to the people of Hinds County.”
U.S. Southern District of Mississippi Judge Carlton Reeves on July 29 placed the jail into receivership, citing “severely deficient” conditions at the facility. Reeves said that problems with supervision and staffing led to “a stunning array of assaults, as well as deaths.” Seven people died last year while detained at the jail, he said.
Jones and the current board of supervisors said they inherited the facility’s issues when they came into office. They also said previous boards had ignored the jail’s needs.
The board said it has spent some $3.2 million renovating the facility and cited work underway to build a new jail in the county.
Reeves wrote in his decision that the facility’s staffing levels are “particularly egregious.” The board and Jones said current economic conditions are to blame for their staffing woes.
“The current Board has raised staff salaries twice, but staff numbers have continued to drop,” officials said in the news release. “Hinds County and the State of Mississippi are at record low unemployment numbers and virtually all employers, public and private, are having severe problems hiring sufficient staff.”
Reeves’ ruling came after he agreed to scale back the county’s jail 2016 consent decree with the federal government to address “unconstitutional conditions” at Raymond and two other facilities that comprise the Hinds County jail system. The details governing the receivership will be decided by Reeves.
The county officials said they would decide how they would respond to the court’s decision in the upcoming days.