JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – A federal judge won’t put his decision to appoint a federal receiver to take over the Hinds County Detention Center on hold while the case is on appeal.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves denied a request from the county to stay his earlier decision while it is appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit.
Reeves ruled that even on appeal, the receivership must go forward, saying “The county has shown a clear lack of urgency and competency since this action was initiated in 2016. And there is no indication that the county, if left to its own devices, will remedy the ongoing constitutional harms at RDC anytime soon.”
The county had asked for the stay, saying Reeves’ decision overstepped the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Attorneys for the county also argued that the judge’s decision to put the jail in receivership was based on its noncompliance with the 2016 consent decree, not the new decree handed down earlier this year.
PRLA requires that orders related to reforming jails cannot go beyond a “Constitutional minimum” to bring a jail up to Department of Justice standards.
Reeves, though, disagreed. “This is not a situation where the court imposed new conditions on the county, only to then measure its efforts to comply using an entirely different metric. Rather, the court’s decision to impose a receivership stems from a longtime line of worsening Constitutional violations,” he wrote.
He pointed to the fact that the injunction handed down in the spring was a “scaled-back” version of the original decree, and the county had failed to implement provisions found in both.
“Paragraph 42 of the consent decree required the county to ‘[e]nsure that the jail has sufficient staffing to adequately supervise prisoners, fulfill the terms of this agreement, and allow for the safe operation of the jail,’” he wrote. “The new injunction contains the exact same requirement.”
Even so, he says “the county continues to be non-compliant with the provision… In fact, the current staffing levels are the lowest they have ever been.”
The county also argued that it would be “irreparably harmed” without the stay, citing the powers given to the receiver by the court.
France is expected to take over the position on January 1.
In his role, the judge said France would, among other things, be in charge of day-to-day activities at the detention center, have the ability to hire, fire, suspend, promote and discipline employees, and would be able to negotiate agreements with the sheriff, board of supervisors and other agencies to address jail needs.
Attorneys for the county argued that the receiver’s authority would remove all of the county’s authority at the jail and could potentially impose financial burdens that could bankrupt the county.
“The county cleverly glosses over several ‘checks and balances’ designed to ensure a reciprocal working relationship between the receiver, the county and the court,” Reeves wrote. “The receiver’s budget, staff compensation, staff terms of service and other significant financial agreements [are] subject to approval by the court before they may take effect.”
He goes on to state that provisions of the receivership were written to ensure the county had a voice, that the county could contest the receiver’s decisions and that the county “is and will remain and active player, whose involvement and commitment to remedying the unconstitutional conditions at RDC is necessary to compliance.”
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