Behind the barbed wire around our prisons is a cesspool, a word Federal Judge Carlton Reeves used to describe conditions in the Walnut Grove Youth Detention Facility (WGYDF), in Mississippi. NPR reports he stated:
the youth prison “has allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”
Behind those wires, children as young as 13 are kept in a state of fear. Rape; beatings; sexual abuse from guards, staff and older inmates; asphyxiation with toxic chemical sprays; stabbings; and death is the daily portion of “rehabilitation” meted out to any child unfortunate enough to wind up in Walnut Grove.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit C.B., et al. v. Walnut Grove Correctional Authority, et al. with co-counsel Robert B. McDuff and The National Prison Project of the ACLU Foundation, on behalf of young men incarcerated in Walnut Grove, which sparked a full investigation by the Department of Justice in 2010. Settled in March of this year, the DOJ stated in its report:
WGYCF is deliberately indifferent to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth. The sexual misconduct we found was among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation. Further, staff fails to report allegations of staff sexual abuse to supervisors and State officials, as required by law.
Evidence reveals systematic, egregious and dangerous practices at WGYCF exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls. The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct exists in several areas, including:
Deliberate indifference to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth;
Use of excessive use of force by WGYCF staff on youth;
Inadequate protection of youth from youth-on-youth violence;
Deliberate indifference to youth at risk of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors; and
Deliberate indifference to the medical needs of youth.
“Our findings show that due to the unconstitutional operation of WGYCF, youth were sexually preyed upon by staff and all too frequently suffered grievous harm, including death,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The widespread and significant deficiencies at the facility violate the Eighth Amendment’s mandate that imprisoned youth be protected from harm and provided with adequate medical and mental health care. “
Now the cesspool operators are slinking out of Mississippi, leaving death and damage behind them.
This is one small victory for those of us who are paying attention to what is going on behind the barbed wire and walls of our nations prisons—no matter who controls them.
Do you have children? Brothers, sisters, cousins, who are teens? Imagine them in one of these places.
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