FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Juvenile Justice Case Resolved With Department of Justice

(Jackson, Miss.) – Governor Haley Barbour, Attorney General Jim Hood and Alex Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice (DOJ), today announced that a settlement has been reached in the federal lawsuit regarding Mississippi’s juvenile training schools at Oakley and Columbia.

In May of 2002, the United States notified the State of Mississippi of its intent to investigate the conditions of confinement at the Oakley and Columbia schools. On June 19, 2003, the United States issued a findings letter which concluded that certain conditions at the schools violated the constitutional and federal statutory rights of juveniles confined in the facilities.

“I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement,” said Governor Barbour. “By not proceeding with a lengthy trial, we’re saving the taxpayers money. Most importantly, we will be working together to better these schools for Mississippi’s troubled youth. It is of the utmost importance that these training schools adhere to the highest standards, and we have ensured that through the juvenile justice legislation passed this year and through the settlement of this lawsuit,” he said.

The settlement expires after four years and represents a compromise on the legal form of the agreement, using both a consent decree and a private settlement agreement. The State will continue to be directly responsible for the operation and improvement of the schools. Oakley and Columbia will continue to provide housing, food, education, medical care and rehabilitation for juvenile offenders.

“When the state takes custody of juveniles, it undertakes an obligation to provide care and safety consistent with our Constitution and our laws,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Today’s settlement will remedy inadequate conditions of confinement at Columbia and Oakley. The Department of Justice thanks Governor Barbour and the State of Mississippi for cooperating with us to reach and implement the reforms contained in today’s settlement.”

"I am glad that our Assistant Attorneys General were able to work with the Department of Justice in settling the training school case. I appreciate the leadership shown by Federal Magistrate James C. Sumner in encouraging the settlement of this litigation. I thank the leadership in the State Legislature for providing the funding to better train, educate, treat and rehabilitate these juveniles," said Attorney General Jim Hood.

In accordance with the juvenile justice bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature and recently signed by Governor Barbour, the State will implement a variety of improvements at both facilities. Joyce Burrell, Senior Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research, was jointly selected by the State and the DOJ to monitor the compliance of the agreement. She has 20 years of experience in juvenile justice.

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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741
         

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